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Processed Food, Junk Food and Computers are to Blame for Childhood Obesity

26 July 2014 / 08:07:24  GRReporter
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One in three children in Greece is overweight or too obese for their age. According to the new research of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Greece, along with Italy, Slovenia and the United States are the member states of the organisation where the problem is most serious. The situation in the rest of Europe is not better.
According to the recently announced results of the Eurobarometer survey, the residents of Southern European countries hardly ever exercise or engage in any sports activity. The leader in this negative ranking is Bulgaria, where 78 percent of citizens have no physical activity. In Greece, their percentage is nearly 60 percent, well above the average for the EU, which is 42 percent. Being that passive, parents are an extremely bad example for their children, who since an early age get used to a sedentary lifestyle, resulting in weight gain and serious health problems.
GRReporter talks with the dietitian and nutrition specialist Michalis Tzoulis about the causes of childhood obesity and the ways to deal with it.
What causes childhood obesity?
Childhood obesity has been a serious problem in Greece for many years and, unfortunately, we are first in the European Union regarding this indicator. The reason for this is both the wrong diet of children and sedentary life. The balance between energy received compared to that which is not expended is zero. Furthermore, children no longer play outdoors compared to previous generations.
Now children are much more limited at home and a lot more of their activities such as studying foreign languages, playing musical instruments, etc. are performed at home. In addition, the various types of entertainment are now connected with static objects such as TV, video games and computers.
How can we deal with that problem? What methods do you offer?
Science is constantly dealing with this problem, but it doesn’t focus as much on how to deal with it as with finding the roots of the problem. My proposal is that parents should be more involved in this process. One of the main causes of childhood obesity, in my opinion, is the fact that parents do not spend enough time with their children. As a result, families spend together a very limited amount of time. Of course, parents often do not have enough time either for their own physical activities, or for engaging in some physical activity with their children.

As a result, neither parents, nor their children do any sports. Years ago, families used to go out together, they had picnics, participated in different activities, no matter if they were of a sporting nature or otherwise. This does not happen anymore. Both parents and children are burdened with tasks and are hardly involved in any sports activity at all.
So, I think that in order to fight childhood obesity, parents need some training. Equally important is the education of children in schools. Lectures should be conducted by specialists who need to acquaint children with the problem in depth and give them advice. The main thing though is that children understand the nature of the problem too.

What’s the role of nutrition in that process?
Increasingly, children eat processed food and prefer to eat at fast food restaurants. Yes, this is a very big problem. In fact, in Greece the consumption of processed food is not so high, but fast food is very popular. In this respect, it is necessary to draw the attention of parents to that problem, and they need to seriously consider the daily menu in their homes. What I mean is that families should eat the appropriate food, together at the table, so that children learn by following this example. Children also need to comprehend the meaning of nutrition, how important it is to eat healthily several times a day.
What are the consequences of obesity for our children’s health?
Obesity causes a number of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease such as the so-called metabolic syndrome popular in recent years. The latter includes diabetes mellitus of type I and II and certain cardiovascular diseases. All these problems associated with metabolic disfunctions often occur in children at a very early age and that's dangerous.

 

Tags: Childhood Obesity Processed Food Junk Food Michalis Tzoulis nutrition metabolic syndrome
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