Greek Children Among the Most Overweight in Europe

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Greek children are among the most overweight in Europe because of their poor eating habits. One in two adults over 60 years of age suffer from hyperlipidemia and/or high blood pressure, and more than one in ten Greek adults is diabetic.

According to an alarming recent study published in the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA), experts claim that Greek children are prone to obesity, anemia, and even nutrient deficiency because of improper diet.

The Pan-Hellenic Study on Nutrition and Health, which scrutinized the habits of 4,600 individuals of all ages, showed disturbing results for the health of the entire Greek nation.

Internationally, four out of ten children drink sugary beverages on a daily basis. A third of children worldwide also do not eat a single fruit daily, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Poor nutrition is one of the greatest risks for mortality, even more than air pollution and smoking, experts say. An analysis of over 23,000 packaged food products showed that  69 percent of them are of relatively low nutritional value, according to the report.

Greeks eat too much, and mostly unhealthy, food

Antonis Zambelas, nutrition professor at the Agricultural University of Athens, told AMNA “a very large part of our population has not been eating properly for many years.” He added that “In terms of calories (energy), we take in more than we need and approximately 60 percent of the population has a weight problem”.

Perhaps most surprising, he said, was the finding that the everyday diet of Greeks “lacks important nutrients.”

The average eating habits of most Greeks includes a great deal of fat, saturated fat and even too much protein, the professor said.

As Zambelas pointed out, Greeks overall also show a very low intake of many vitamins and minerals in their diet. Almost none of the participants tested had enough vitamin D, and 70 percent had low folate levels. Folate is a mineral particularly important in gestating and breastfeeding women.

Sixty percent of people had low calcium and potassium levels, and about 30 percent of women of reproductive age had low iron levels. Sodium intake was found to be particularly high.

The same poor eating habits applied to Greek children as well, leading to them being among the most overweight in Europe. The experts pointed out that frequent consumption of sugar-rich beverages more than doubles the risk of obesity. Just as importantly, it also leads to the reduction of consumption of healthier beverages such as milk, water or juice.