Greeks on a see-saw in the battle of the bulge

Yo-yo dieting and intense exercise before the swimsuit season of summer vacation could damage the health of Greeks, says a survey by the Greek Medical Society for Obesity. Only three percent of Greeks exercise regularly – the lowest percentage in the European Union – but gyms overflow from March to May as people prepare for summer holidays, when they stop working out and indulge in food and drink. Nearly three-quarters of Greeks who saw major fluctuations in their weight had visited slimming centers and two-thirds had tried slimming pills at least once. The survey found that seven in 10 Greek men and half of all Greek women were over the average weight. Only 1.9 percent of men and 4.7 percent of women can be called thin – meaning that their body weight is lower than normal. Summer appears to be particularly risky for the waistlines of those who drink a lot – especially men – as alcohol contributes to weight gain. The survey asked a sample of 8,090 men and 9,313 women about their consumption of four kinds of alcoholic drinks – beer, whisky, wine and liqueur – and correlated that information with the measurements of their abdomens and thighs. It found that 22 percent of men did not drink at all, 59 percent were moderate drinkers (50-150 grams, or 7-14 drinks, a week) and 19 percent drank heavily. Of the women, 55 percent did not drink at all, 44 percent were average drinkers and just 1.5 percent heavy drinkers. Paradoxically – and this is a world-wide phenomenon – men who were moderate drinkers had thinner waistlines than both heavy drinkers and those who abstain from alcohol. According to Myrto Kaklamanou, a doctor with the association, Greeks are unique in that women who are heavy drinkers have less abdominal fat, although she said the statistical sample used was small. «Another interesting fact that emerged is that Greeks aren’t such heavy drinkers but they smoke a lot; this is also linked to higher body weight among men,» she said. Under two thirds of the men and one third of women in the survey were smokers. Male smokers had a greater body mass than non-smokers, yet the opposite was true for women. Physical, mental and financial repercussions Because obesity is linked to serious diseases, doctors say losing weight is important to people’s health as well as their appearance. Obese people are more likely to suffer from hypertension, sugar diabetes, cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. Eighty percent of people suffering from Type 2 diabetes are overweight; weight loss is perhaps the only way to prevent this disease. It is said that steady but moderate weight loss can cut the incidence of this disease in half. For women in particular, obesity is often linked to depression and might sometimes require medication. Other psychological conditions suffered by the obese are stress and desperation. Finally, 2 to 6 percent of all health expenditure in the European Union and the US is spent on dealing with obesity and its effects.

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