The fattest children in Europe live in Italy

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Despite Mediterranean food: Europe's fattest children live in Italy

While the British children recently took first place in terms of obesity, the small Italians now occupy the top position in Europe. Over 40 percent of two to ten year olds are therefore overweight or even obese. This was the result of a European study. The causes are to be found in an ideal of beauty, lack of sleep and fear of crime.

Instead of Mediterranean food, pizza, pasta and ice cream Despite the varied, healthy range of Mediterranean cuisine, which includes, for example, fresh vegetables and fruit, fish and olive oil, Italian children seem to prefer to eat pizza, pasta and ice cream. At the urging of Italy, Morocco, Greece and Spain, the so-called Mediterranean Diet 2010 was even recognized by Unesco as an intangible cultural heritage.

More than 40 percent of two to ten year olds in Italy suffer from overweight or obesity. Their peers in Greece, Cyprus and Spain are also familiar with the problem. Whether on the beach in Palermo, in Rome or on Lake Garda - everywhere you see small overweight children with sweets in their hands or even a chip bag in the stroller. "The surveys of the past ten or twenty years show that we have higher cases of childhood obesity in southern Europe," reports Wolfgang Ahrens, head of the Idefics study at the Bremen Institute for Epidemiology and Prevention Research. Since 2006, researchers in Europe have been studying diseases of children that are attributable to their lifestyle as part of the EU-funded research framework program. For the largest long-term study on child nutritional health disorders in the EU, 16,225 children were examined.

Mediterranean cuisine is more popular in Sweden than in the Mediterranean. "The data we have collected suggests that the Mediterranean is moving north," explains Ahrens. Swedish children eat more "Mediterranean" than their peers on the Mediterranean.

In Italy the government now wants to react to the known problem. The cartoon character "Captain KUK" is intended to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables. Health Minister Renato Balduzzi also wants to face the problem financially. In the future there will be an additional tax for sweetened lemonade drinks. On the one hand, young people are to be prevented from buying the unhealthy drinks, and on the other hand, money is to be put into the clammy health insurance funds. The minister said the additional tax should “draw public attention to an issue that is under-seen in families. Half of our children consume too many fizzy and sugared drinks. ” However, critics are of the opinion that Balduzzi is only using the problem to dig deeper into the pocket of the citizen.

Moppel figure as a beauty ideal for Italian children Italian mothers are often said to be very concerned about their offspring. This can also have a negative impact on nutrition. “There was the ideal of beauty that children should be something proper. The ideas of what a healthy child looks like are still divergent, ”explains Ahrens. In addition, many Italians do not let their children play on the streets due to the chaotic traffic situation in some cities and high crime rates. Instead of having fun outside, the little ones sit in front of the television or computer, as they do almost everywhere in Europe, while they eat something on the side. "Children who watch a lot of TV eat differently and are more likely to choose unhealthy foods," reports Ahrens. In part, the lack of consequence is to blame for the unhealthy nutrition of the children. Many parents prefer to give their children a chocolate bar rather than offering them fruit that has to be washed and cut beforehand. It is also a problem that many Italian parents and grandparents simply cannot say no, reports a mother. According to the study, the rules of eating are most consistently observed in Sweden.

Another reason for the overweight of many Italian children could be lack of sleep. Youngsters go to bed much later in the Mediterranean than in Northern Europe, for example, which can lead to weight gain. “There is a clear relationship between sleep duration and being overweight. The metabolic state changes, insulin sensitivity decreases, the risk of diabetes increases. ” According to experts, the risk of obesity for elementary school children is twice as high if they sleep less than nine hours compared to children who sleep eleven hours. The result of the study is no surprise: "The Italian children sleep the shortest of all, the Swedish the longest."

Many parents lack awareness of the overweight of their children.As the number of overweight children has increased continuously in recent years, the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) led obesity diseases, the pediatrician network CrescNet and pediatric medicine at Leipzig University Hospital recently conducted a joint study on the subject. The terrifying result: parents often lack awareness of the overweight of children.

The researchers conducted a survey of a total of 433 families with 241 overweight children between the ages of four and seventeen who participated in an overweight prevention program and 192 children who were not in a corresponding program. It turned out that mothers and fathers, whose children were “only” overweight, refused to participate in the prevention program much more often than parents whose children were already obese, as stated in the communication by the Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) Obesity was called illnesses. Obesity in children is often not considered to be a serious problem. (ag)

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