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Want Fries With That? Childhood Obesity Overtaking Greece

ATHENS – Foregoing the healthy Mediterranean Diet in favor of fast foods and high-calorie eating has driven childhood obesity in Greece to record levels and brought warnings of the dangers.

Discouraging data was presented by health experts to the Standing Committee on Social Affairs in Parliament, said Kathimerini, indicating how serious it has become, with 38 percent of the general population far overweight.

The results showed that 21 percent of even preschool children are overweight and obese while it’s an astounding 41 percent for those 10-12 years old, far above the levels in Central European countries.

Giannis Manios, a Professor of Nutrition Education and Assessment at the Harokopio University of Athens, said it’s being driven by misconceptions about diet and what researchers said is a lack of exercise and poor food choices.

Curiously, the rate is higher in rural areas where in the past people grew their own foods and had no access to fast and greasy and friend foods at restaurants and ate little red meat, but had legumes, fruits and vegetables.

But there are vast differences in neighborhoods within cities, with the rate at only 3 percent in the northern suburb of Halandri but 20 percent in the southwestern area Keratsini, with variations of 5-14 percent in other residential areas.

“This means that it depends on the environment of the neighborhood and the school, but also the educational level of the parents,” said Manios, the report also said of the problem getting worse.

“Some 88 percent of parents of overweight or obese children consider their child’s weight normal and 20 percent of parents with children of normal weight consider their child to be underweight,” he added.

Yiannis Ifantopoulos, Professor of Health Economics and Social Policy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens said that “children with a ‘healthy’ weight have a 13% higher performance in their lessons and education.”

It was previously reported that the prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence exceeded 30–35 percent, which is among the highest rates in Europe.

In a 2020 paper outlining the severity of the phenomenon in Greece, a group of researchers, including physicians and nutritionists in 2020 wrote about a National e-Health program to try to deal with it by having children registered online to receive guidance about BMI.

A professional fitness Personal Trainer evaluated children and adolescents in relation to their activities and hobbies throughout the week, suggested a personalized exercise program, and encouraged the whole family to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and exercise daily for 30-45 minutes.

“The aim was to recommend a personalized physical activity plan, which would not be perceived as compulsory, boring or difficult, but rather as a highly enjoyable and entertaining activity,” they said.

In 2019, the paper cited a report on public health showing Greece had the second highest rate of child obesity in the European Union, behind only Malta, with almost 25 percent of 15-year-olds considered fat, although that was for the period 2013-14, the problem continuing today.

Boys were more likely to be obese than girls, according to the study which said one in six adults were obese in Greece, a rate of 17 percent that has been rising steadily.

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