We’ve certainly heard enough about the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States but it turns out our neighbors across the pond are experiencing the same issues. A new study found that much like the US, the culprit behind the rising obesity rates in Europe can be attributed to unhealthy snacks and watching too much TV.
Obesity rates among European preschoolers has hit record level with more than 1 in 8 northern European overweight children, and over 25% of children in southern Europe. Spain has the highest rate where 38% of young girls are classified as overweight or obese.
Published in the journal Obesity Reviews, the report reveals the results of the 10 European country wide study finding that preschoolers are becoming overweight from eating too many unhealthy snacks, drinking too much soda, and watching too much TV on weekends. The researchers explain that this phenomenon not only impacts the future health of Europeans, it also puts a significant financial burden on society.
The European commission supports the Toy Box Study with grant funds, and it will continue on to include the development and evaluation of a new program aimed to help kindergarteners in 6 EU countries promote healthy lifestyles. The program will educate the children on healthy snacking and water consumption as well as reducing sedentary activities like TV watching while increasing physical activity.
Toy Box study coordinator Dr. Yannis Manios, Assistant Professor at Harokopio University in Athens explains: “We need a new approach to prevent obesity. Young children are naturally energetic and they like being physically active since for them this is a way to interact socially and make friends. However, in the opposite direction, the natural human preference for sweet tasting and energy-dense foods and drinks is leading children towards these food items whenever they are exposed to them.” Perhaps someday the US and Europe can compare notes so that all of world’s children get off to a healthy start in life.