Well, this is not really surprising, considering that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a normal weight in adults. In this study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria, Swedish researchers from the University of Gothenburg looked at weight and diet of 9000 children in 8 European countries including Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden and found that children who followed a Mediterranean style diet were 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese.
This makes total sense as basically what we are seeing is that children who eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, fish etc. are less likely to be overweight or obese than kids who eat overly processed foods.
Now this study comes at a time when new statistics were presented about childhood obesity in the world. And guess what? Greece tops the list as having the highest percentage of obese or overweight children in the world. Forty four percent of boys 5 to 17 are either overweight or obese. Am I surprised? No. I’ve been talking about this for years.
As a mother who lives in Greece, I see firsthand many mistakes parents make. Not only are many of them not following the Mediterranean diet at all, but young parents (many in their 20’s and 30’s) continue to have the attitude of their grandparents, and are afraid to let their children feel any type of hunger. Feeding them snacks at all times especially when they are playing, depending on a lot of processed foods marketed to children as healthy when they are not, pushing the child to eat all the food on the plate, using food to keep a child quiet. Of course these are not the only factors, I have explained the reasons why we have developed such a high rate of overweight and obese adults and children in this post.
I am hopeful though, I do think that there is a chance to halt this .
But it will not happen without some concrete actions. There needs to be more specialized education of parents and all caregivers. Nowadays it has become very common in Greece for children to be with grandparents or other non-family member caregivers/housekeepers. We know from studies that spending more time with grandparents is associated with higher weight in children. As for the other caregivers, do they have the time (among their other housekeeping responsibilities) and the knowledge to feed a child a healthy meal? From what I see, the answer is no.
The government here in Greece occasionally puts together some committees here and there. Many medical and nutrition associations are often collaborating with food and soda companies which makes things even more confusing and problematic. In addition, there simply are no consistent public initiatives aimed at educating parents and families and providing solutions. There are however plenty of private initiatives from food and soda companies who are getting access to public and private schools to teach kids about physical activity and nutrition, their true purpose being to promote their brand and appear socially responsible.
So yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us…
In the meantime if you would like your child to follow a Mediterranean style diet, check this post on how I do it.