Obesity, one of the major factors in the development of gastroesophageal reflux, has reached epidemic proportions in the Western world. According to a recent epidemiological survey by the Greek Foundation for Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Greece has the dubious honor of having the greatest percentage (37.5) of overweight adults in the European Union; 12.9 percent are obese. The survey, carried out among a sample of 700 people, showed that 55 percent of overweight Greeks are men and 64 percent are married. The most important risk factor in becoming overweight is age, as most are aged 51-60. Only 38 percent of overweight Greeks have never smoked, and 39 percent are heavy smokers. Over half suffer from some form of chronic disease; 24 percent have high blood pressure and 8 percent are diabetic. According to Associate Professor Georgios Papatheodoridis of Athens University’s medical school, the increase in obesity is chiefly due to the change in Greeks’ nutrition from a traditional Mediterranean diet to habits more typical of people in the industrialized West. «Current dietary habits, including the increased consumption of packaged or fast food, have resulted in the intake of more calories, carbohydrates and particularly animal and saturated fats,» explained Papatheodoridis. «Apart from their harmful effect on body weight, these habits have been linked to a increased risk of developing a number of diseases. A typical example is the increased risk of heart disease among people who ingest high amounts of animal fats and too many calories, the heightened danger of colon cancer among those who eat too much red meat and not enough vegetable fiber, liver or pancreatic disease among those who drink too much alcohol, and tooth decay among those who eat too many simple carbohydrates,» he said. The only way to resolve the problem is to return to the Mediterranean diet, based on the consumption of olive oil in combination with vegetables and pulses, a diet that provides protection from a number of chronic diseases. Ideally, this diet should be complemented by physical exercise, maintaining an appropriate body weight and the avoidance of smoking.