Too much TV, too little exercise can shorten your life, health experts warn

Obesity and adult-onset diabetes are twin epidemics, say the experts, who are predicting that these ailments will acquire the dimensions of a pandemic in coming decades. Yet both can to large extent be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, the contemporary Greek lifestyle involves long hours watching television and the consumption of fast food and snacks. A study of 253 patients conducted by the Obesity-Diet-Metabolism-Endocrinology laboratory at the Hygeia Hospital showed that one in four people who are obese watch television more than 21 hours a week, while those in the sample watched 16 hours a week on average. Department director Giorgos Panotopoulos presented the results to the press last month, prior to the Third Postgraduate Seminar on Diabetes and Sugar Diabetes Type 2 in Athens. The more television the participants watched the more abdominal fat they had. The majority of cases (67 percent) ate snacks (crisps and biscuits) while watching television. Experts say that a large packet of crisps contains 1,000 calories, the same as 3 kilos of fillet steak. More than half those questioned said they did not exercise, and only 18 percent said they exercised for three hours a week. According to international studies, an increase of two hours a day in television watching by a population is accompanied by an increase of 23 percent in the incidence of obesity and a 14 percent increase in the incidence of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), or adult-onset diabetes, every year. Christos Zoupas of the Diabetes Center explained that most cases (80 percent) of adult-onset diabetes are related to obesity, but moderate, steady weight loss can reduce the incidence of the disease to about 50 percent. More than 1 million people in Greece are estimated to suffer from adult-onset diabetes, with 30,000 new cases recorded every year. NIDDM diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world. Its causes include limited sports activities at schools, the decreasing number of playgrounds, rising consumption of fast food, and stress.