Children add kilos on couch

Greece’s 10-year-olds have become some three kilos heavier in the last 12 years and suffer from higher blood pressure, as data presented by medical experts yesterday showed that preteens have also become couch potatoes. According to information prepared by the organizers of the Sixth Panhellenic Medical Congress on Obesity, set to start in Thessaloniki on Thursday, 10-year-old boys weigh an average of 38 kilos versus 34.9 kilos in 1994. The average weight of girls of the same age has also increased to 37.6 kilos from 34.6 kilos 12 years ago. Doctors said that blood pressure is also on the rise at this young age, which means that preventative measures need to be taken earlier, such as a more careful approach to diet and greater physical exercise. Data shows that overweight children consume more foods containing cholesterol, fatty acids and salt than their peers with healthier weight levels, medical experts said. Extra hours spent in front of the television are also adding to the problem. Preteens spend between two to four hours a day in front of the box. The majority, 84 percent, do not exercise at all or only rarely. On an adult level, two-thirds of Greek men are above regular weight levels as are almost one in two women. Conference organizers explained that children’s obesity is a health problem across the European Union. Officials in Brussels are examining methods to help increase diet awareness, such as putting a red stripe on the packaging of high fat food products, while healthier food items would be marked with a green label. In an attempt to make the nation’s public more conscious of the lurking health dangers to children, the Hellenic Medical Association for Obesity will launch a two-year program next month by going out to 100 different schools to let students know what they should be eating. The medical group will also collect data from the schools for further research on children between the ages of 12-14.