NEWS

Kids’ bad dietary habits

Two thirds of Greek 12-year-olds interviewed and tested by a team of dietitians were found to have higher than normal levels of fats in their blood, according to results of a study released this week. The study, carried out by the Harokopeio University’s dietary laboratory and the Panhellenic Association of Dietitians and sponsored by the cereal-maker Kelloggs, also found that 29 percent of the children, particularly boys, were overweight and 8 percent obese. «This study unfortunately confirmed the fact that Greeks have largely abandoned the Mediterranean diet, which is low in saturated fats and high in carbohydrates, and are tending to adopt Western dietary habits,» said Associate Professor Antonis Zambelas, who headed the survey. The 195 children from schools in and around Volos, in central Greece, were given medical tests and interviewed about their dietary habits and how they spend their free time. The study found that, on average, over 40 percent of the total calorie intake per day was in the form of whole fats, particularly saturated fats (over 15 percent of the daily intake). Less that 45 percent was in carbohydrates form, while vegetable fiber intake amounted to an average of only 7-8 grams, or 1,000 calories. If the results are indicative of the general population, say the researchers, there is an increased risk of heart disease and mortality from related factors. They recommended that children be taught the principles of good dietary habits, and take regular exercise. The good news was that 95 percent of the children said they ate breakfast. Although they spent less time in physical activities (11.5 hours per week for boys and 8 hours a week for girls) than in watching television (17 hours a week for boys and 14 hours for girls), the difference was not as marked as in Athens or Crete, where similar studies found that children spent 5.5 hours a week on physical exercise and 24-32 hours a week in front of the television. Prime Minister Costas Simitis is in Sofia today along with Foreign Minister George Papandreou for talks with the newly elected Bulgarian president Georgy Parvanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Discussions will focus on establishing stability in the Balkans, the fight against organized crime in the region, and construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.