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Greek children fattest in Europe

A survey of children's weight in seven European countries found Greece has the fattest children, with half of them either obese or overweight.

Greece topped the league for fattest children in Europe, with 20% of all 10-12-year-olds obese, and a further 30% overweight, according to research published in PLoS-ONE. The ENERGY study covers seven countries, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and the UK.

Obesity is hitting record levels among Europe‘s children, with nearly one in ten obese and a further 20% overweight, averaged across all seven countries. Lowest levels were found in Norway where only 4% are obese, and 15% overweight.

“Explaining these differences is not easy,” said research coordinator Professor Johannes Brug, of the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam. “We found children in Greece have the lowest levels of sports activities, children in Hungary watch the most television, children in Belgium sleep the most, and children in the Netherlands consume the most sugared drinks.”

The team of researchers examined 7234 children and found that girls tended to be slimmer than boys, but girls also tended to participate in sports less than boys. Boys watched more television and drank more soft drinks. The team also found that children of better educated parents tended to be slimmer, except in Greece or Spain.

“Clearly there are differences in the cultural traditions, family customs and dietary habits across different European communities,” said Professor Brug. “The research tells us that children have one thing in common – they are all exposed to multiple causes of obesity which lead them to gain excess weight. Tackling just one cause on its own will not work.”

The research is supported by a €2.9 million grant from the European Commission, and will include pilot testing new interventions designed to reduce sedentary behaviour in children aged 10-12 years.

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