NEWS

Fears over children’s slimming pill

Around 14 million of Europe’s children are now overweight, and, of those, 3 million are obese, increasing by 400,000 per year, according to figures released recently by Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou. The survey was aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle at schools, increasing the availability of healthy food in school cafeterias or at automatic sales points and reducing that of food high in fat and sugar content or at least in large portions. An indication of the magnitude of the problem in Europe is an announcement by a major pharmaceutical firm that it has produced a slimming pill for children. The news caused an uproar in the medical community, on the one hand over fears of its abuse, and on the other because it could legitimize all the factors that cause the problem in the first place, including the brainwashing of children with television ads for processed foods, sweets and soft drinks. At a meeting last week in Istanbul, the World Health Organization discussed medical research that found obesity was behind a number of degenerative diseases not normally encountered among children, such as hypertension, high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, low lipoprotein density, breathlessness during sleep, orthopedic problems, early puberty, and Type II diabetes. The International Association for the Study of Obesity has found that advertising firms use child psychiatrists to shape children’s desires and cancel out parents’ advice. The association called for an immediate halt to the commercialization that puts children’s physical and mental health at risk. In many member states of the European Union, various organizations are calling for restrictions on the advertising of processed foods and serious initiatives are being taken.