ATHENS – Picking fast foods over the Mediterranean Diet has come at a heavy cost for Greek children, some 42 percent of whom are overweight, with 20 percent of boys under 10 obese, a survey by the World Health Organization’s European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) has found.
The findings of COSI, which measures trends in overweightness and obesity among primary school-aged children, were from 2015-17 and made public at a conference of the European Association for the Study of Obesity in Vienna.
Picking cheeseburgers, pizza and pies instead of salads, olive oil and other Greek mainstays has packed on the kilos for the kids, with 38 percent of girls overweight although the WHO said the record was getting better.
Greece also ranks third when it comes to obese boys: The record is worse only in Cyprus and Italy at 21 percent.
According to the research, among Greek children of primary school age, 38 percent of girls are overweight and 14 percent obese, one of the worst records in Europe, along with Italy and Spain.
The worst record was on Cyprus, another Mediterranean Diet country where changes in eating habits have made 43 percent of boys overweight.
Greece ranks third together for overweight girls with pasta-proud Italy where 38 percent of girls are overweight, with Cyprus and Spain in first and second place with 43 percent and 41 percent respectively.
For obese girls, Greece ranks joint fourth with Italy, with Cyprus topping the EU chart with 19 percent, followed by Spain and Malta with 17 and 15 percent.
In August, 2017, there was a similar finding from the Athens-based Harokopio University which said the risks of overweight children included growing incidents of high blood pressure and pre-diabetic symptoms.
Shunning the traditional Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, olive oil, fruits and nuts in favor of fast foods, Greek children are becoming unhealthier in critical categories, especially when their choices are combined with a lack of exercise.
Titled Healthy Growth and conducted on children aged 9 to 13 across the country, the study found that 28 percent of subjects were resistant to insulin, 21-24 percent had high blood pressure, 13 percent had high cholesterol levels in their blood and 9 percent had elevated triglycerides.
Analysts said that drugs aren’t the answer but that better food choices and exercise are more important to reverse the symptoms and risks although earlier studies by the university found that 88 percent of parents of obese children aged 5-6 years old underestimate their child’s condition.
“Parents prefer to think that it’s a sign of health or that their child will grow out of it,” Harokopio professor Yiannis Manios told Kathimerini.