What is Obesity?

As children, back in the 1980s, the playgrounds in our neighborhoods were everybody's favorite spot and almost every kid played basketball or football games. None of our friends had a PC and few of our buddies were privileged to have a video game console, as Nintendo; the breakfast of the average schoolboy consisted of some pastry, fruits, and milk. Back then, we had bakeries instead of fast-food chains near every school.

As Eastern European and other quickly developing countries became more open to the West and western culture, following the years after 2000, chocolate bars and sweets flooded the stands in the supermarkets. Hamburger-joints and internet cafes started mushrooming in the streets of the countries' towns and cities. In many states, the young people gladly welcomed the Western cultural phenomena of fast-food, internet, and computer games, but with them came one of the most contagious plights of the consumer society nowadays - overweight and obesity.

Poor nutrition and insufficient activity are two of major components of obesity among children - explained an expert nutritionist and consultant on nutrition.

A survey on overweight and obesity was carried out in 2008 among 3,900 first-graders from 184 schools and the results were quite alarming: 30 percent of the tested children were overweight, and thirteen percent were suffering from obesity. For comparison, the results of a survey on overweight and obesity carried out in 1998 among over 7,000 students, first-twelfth grade, showed that 23% of the children between seven and eight years of age suffered from overweight and only 7% were obese.

The number of obese children and adolescents has increased almost two-fold during the past ten years. A nutritionist explains that "This fact is quite concerning and it is clearly speaking of a lack of appropriate information on the problems of overweight and obesity, as well as of the ineffectiveness of the measures taken to tackle these issues."

Children are becoming media junkies

A survey, conducted in 2008, demonstrates that 24% of children do sports on a regular basis and up to 58% of the first-graders spend more than two hours a day watching television or playing computer games. Most of the internet cafes usually offer their young clients an abundance of delicious but very unhealthy foods like chocolate bars, popcorns, and coke.


"We should seek to improve the eating habits of our children and create appropriate conditions for physical activities. So as to grow healthy and happy, our children have to be engaged in some sort of physical activity for at least one hour a day," a nutritionist makes it a point.

Europe's heavyweights: Almost one in four children in Europe is overweight, and the figure is rising by around 400 000 a year. The results of a health survey ?? England quoted on the BBC website show that the number of obese children aged two to ten years rose from 9.9% to 13.4% in the period 1995-2004.

Germany, one of the leading economies in the EU, has also been taking measures to curb childhood obesity. As early as 2004, German Consumer Minister Renate Kuenast said in a statement before the Bundestag parliament that 34% of all children under fourteen weighed too much for their size and age, and eight per cent were clinically obese.

The situation in the pasta and pizza loving Italy is also quite serious - 28 million Italians are overweight, with five million of them obese. The country also has the largest number of overweight children in Europe, some 36% of the nine-year-olds.

Action is needed: Some of the most important measures that the European community has taken to tackle the problem of obesity include: reducing the fat and salt content of foods and promoting programs that encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables. In addition, European consumers' group BEUC has urged the European Commission to introduce binding regulation on advertising and nutrition labeling.

Lunch?! No thanks! There are some propositions that school canteens stop offering potato crisps, instant soups and pre-cooked meals, soft drinks, and high sugar-content pastries and cakes. Nutritionists advise that schools should commence to offer healthy foods and beverages such as fruits, fruit and vegetable juices, wholegrain bread, fish, and herbal teas.