Childhood and adolescent obesity in certain EU Member States is at 30%, according to a a new report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). However, it’s the Mediterranean countries where obesity is at its highest. In Greek youngsters more than one third of boys are classed as overweight or obese. Meanwhile, 43% Cypriot kids are currently obese or overweight. Childhood obesity has turned into a battle that despite best efforts is proving difficult to tackle, but why are Mediterranean children particularly susceptible?
Boys vs girls
Statistics revealed from the World Health Organization reveal that in Greece, Italy and Spain, 42% of boys are classed as overweight or obese. Figures for girls don’t fare much better, either. In Spain, 41% are overweight or obese and in Greece and Italy, rates are at 38%. Meanwhile, 40% of children aged just nine years of age were found to be overweight or obese across Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Greece, showing that something has gone wrong with the Mediterranean diet.
The vanishing Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet once adopted by these countries was previously praised for being one of the healthiest in the world. However, experts now state that the diet has all but disappeared. The head of the WHO European office for prevention and control of noncommunicable disease, Dr Joao Breda, states that: “There is no Mediterranean diet any more. Those who are close to the Mediterranean diet are the Swedish kids. The Mediterranean diet is gone and we need to recover it.” Breda believes that kids have swapped healthy fruit and vegetables, fish and olive oil in favor of fatty, sugary snacks and junk food.
Fighting the bulge
The good news is that Mediterranean countries are taking steps to fight their children’s growing weight problem. Although, childhood obesity remains high in these countries, they have actually decreased. Breda confirms this, stating: “In countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece, although rates are high, there has been an important decrease, which is attributable to a very significant effort that these countries have put in recent years into the management and prevention of childhood obesity.” Eating healthy is helping to combat the problem and one report suggests that at least three-quarters of Italian children are now consuming fruit on a daily basis. Meanwhile, participating in regular exercise sessions and physical activity both at home and at school will help aid weight loss across the Mediterranean and will assist in lowering these rates even further.
The number of children who are overweight or obese across Mediterranean countries is alarmingly high. This high prevalence is believed to mostly be due to a change in diet in these countries. However, it is worth noting that rates have been dropping as the nation and officials take action to prevent the problem from worsening.