Fat children get cure for '21st Century epidemic'

9th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 February 2007, MADRID — Two hundred overweight Spanish children are to be taught to eat properly and in order to emerge slimmer and happier from a syndrome known as "the 21st century epidemic".

9 February 2007

MADRID — Two hundred overweight Spanish children are to be taught to eat properly and in order to emerge slimmer and happier from a syndrome known as "the 21st century epidemic".

The children, aged 13 to 16, form part of the burgeoning population of obese youngsters.

One out of four males and one out of five females are said to be obese or overweight.

Those statistics place the Iberian nation at the fore - behind only Britain - of European countries dealing with unhealthily chubby or fat children.

The therapeutic programme under the direction of the University of Navarre and the auspices of the state Superior Council of Scientific Investigations has divided the children into five groups of 40 each.

The cities where the experiment is being carried out are Granada, Madrid, Pamplona, Santander and Zaragoza.

A team of 50 professionals is coordinated by Madrid-based nutritionist Ascension Marcos.

Its members will guide the young people, according to each one's particular developmental stage, in a personalized diet programme.

Pediatricians, psychologists and physical education teachers will give talks and hold workshops at which participants and their families will learn ways to change attitudes about eating.

"The whole society is implicated," said Navarre University nutritionist Amelia Marti del Moral, one of the programme's experts.

"Fashion, television and other media, misleading advertisement and the accelerated pace of life that leaves parents with no time to teach their kids good eating habits and often makes them simply give the child what he or she asks for."

The lifestyle factor is the framework within which so many young people these days eat so much junk food - french fries and hamburgers, mass-produced pastries, candy and soft drinks, Marti said.

She told EFE that the problem is not limited to what children eat, but also includes how the food is ingested.

She said among the bad habits are excessive snacking, eating too fast, by oneself, and even in hiding.

Marti said children would be better off if they ate more of what for centuries was a big part of the traditional Spanish diet - potages, or thick vegetable-based soups she said "have great hunger-satisfying capacity".

If the programme, which began a few days ago and runs for a year, produces good results, it will be expanded to other parts of Spain.

Each one of the hospitals in the five cities pioneering the program will take a different subject - genetic aspects of obesity, for example - for comprehensive study in classes and workshops.

The main objective, according to Marti, is to teach the kids to like their new diet and habits so that when the programme ends they will stick with them of their own accord.

All those taking part will hear a basic mantra of "smaller portions, eat slowly and while relaxed, and chew your food well," she said.

The World Health Organization, a U.N. body, says childhood obesity is already epidemic in some areas and on the rise in others. An estimated 22 million children under the age of five are estimated to be overweight worldwide.

The WHO says the problem is worse in industrialized "wealthy" nations but increasingly is spreading into the developing world.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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