French measures to fight childhood obesity working?
New studies show that childhood obesity in France is stabilising as compared to the general increasing trend in Europe.15 May 2008
GENEVA - Childhood obesity may be levelling in France in contrast to the general trend in Europe where more youngsters are growing fat, according to two new studies presented Thursday.
Researchers say they are yet unable to link changes in public health policies to the stabilising trend, but stress that an increased awareness of the obesity problem may have had some impact.
However, the studies presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Geneva also show that children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are more prone to fat.
France has moved to introduce measures to combat childhood fat, with vending machines banned in schools since 2005.
In latest measures unveiled, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot in February called for the advertising of certain foods to be stopped voluntarily from children's television programming.
She had warned that if companies do not take voluntary action to remove such advertising, laws will be proposed.
"Public health policy has changed a lot in France since 2000, but we cannot prove that the stabilisation is due to these interventions.
"There has been an increased awareness of the issue of obesity in children and it's possible that this general awareness has had some impact," said Katia Castetbon, who heads the nutritional epidemiology and surveillance unit at the French National Institute for Health Surveillance.
Castetbon's group looked at the prevalence of obesity among seven to nine-year-olds in 2000 and 2007, and found that there was little change in the rates in seven years.
In the second survey by the French Food Safety Agency's dietary unit, results for 2006-2007 were compared with 1998-1999 and found not to show significant deviation.
However, the survey found that overweight rates were 2.5 to three times higher in children from the lowest socio-economic group than those from the highest level.
Castetbon's study also garnered similar findings.
"That indicates that more work needs to be done to adapt the approaches to address the needs of these children so that the gap can be narrowed," she said.
The EU said in 2007 that an estimated three million Europeans are obese, with about 85,000 more children becoming obese every year.
[AFP / Expatica]