A survey of children in seven European countries found Greece topped the league, with twenty percent of all 10-12-year-olds obese, and a further 30 per cent overweight, according to research published today in the scientific journal PLoS-ONE.
Obesity is hitting record levels among Europe's children, with nearly one in ten obese and a further 20 per cent overweight, averaged across all seven countries. Lowest levels were found in Norway where only 4 per cent are obese, and a further 15 per cent 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 from 15 institutions across Europe 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 €2.9m grant from the European Commission, and will include pilot testing new interventions designed to reduce sedentary behaviour in children aged 10-12 years.