Obesity epidemic looming

«Childhood obesity is caused by overconsumption of unhealthy food and insufficient physical exercise,» says Professor Pavlos Toutouzas, director of the Hellenic Cardiology Foundation (ELIKAR). «I am referring to chips and other products that are rich in saturated fats, salt and sugar, and poor in minerals, vitamins and other essential components of a healthy diet. «These are foods that take no time or effort to prepare, and that children have easy access to. Potato chips are a classic case, since 70 percent of their weight comes from fat and salt and only 30 percent from potatoes. «Every advertisement for these products dynamites the health of children, who acquire a lifelong habit of choosing easy foods with excessive amounts of fat, salt and sugar,» said Toutouzas. Metabolic syndrome «At the 14th European Obesity Conference in May, it was announced that half a million children in Europe suffer from metabolic syndrome, which is related to obesity and directly linked to a poor diet,» Toutouzas added. «In Greece, it affects one in four adults, a figure estimated to rise to one half by 2030. In other words, one in two adults will suffer from obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides or late-onset diabetes, the prime cause of which can be blamed on advertising for snacks and fast food.» The rapid rise in childhood obesity was observed in the mid-1990s, according to ELIKAR’s program coordinator, cardiologist Giorgos Andrikopoulos. «Greece, together with southern Italy, southern Spain and Cyprus, is among the countries with the highest levels of obesity. If this trend continues, the next generation will be at very high risk of heart disease. Children become victims of the junk food industry, whose aggressive advertising strategies have made the problem worse.»

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