Spain says goodbye to the Mediterranean diet

Swedish children are the closest to eating a Mediterranean diet in Europe. This is one of the conclusions of the World Health Organization and the report that Save the Children has just presented “Goodbye to the Mediterranean diet: nutrition and healthy habits of childhood in Spain. Thus, the Mediterranean countries have gone from having one of the healthiest diets in the world to another where sweets, fast food and sugary drinks have displaced fruit, vegetables, olive oil and fish.

The investigation shows alarming data: the consumption of vegetables and, especially, that of fruit has been reduced. If in 2017, according to the National Health Survey, 56% of boys and girls ate fruit daily after the pandemic, it fell to 40%. These numbers translate into the difficulty that families have in buying healthy and fresh products. Is encarni’s story, a 40-year-old woman with a 5-year-old daughter, who tells Save the Children about the difficulties she has in feeding her family healthily: “When I go to the supermarket and see the price of fish or vegetables I can’t buy it & rdquor ;, “sometimes it is cheaper to order junk food than to make it & rdquor ;. This situation is already being aggravated by the increase in prices of vegetables and fruits as a result of recent inflation.

The junk food that Encarni talks about, the lack of physical activity, the number of hours spent sleeping or in front of a screen, as well as environmental, cultural and biological factors determine whether boys and girls will suffer from obesity and overweight. The report indicates that almost 28.1% of those under 18 years of age would be overweight in Spain after COVID-19, a figure similar to that before the pandemic, which stood at 27.2%.

Encarni’s daughter has stopped swimming and, now, that time is also dedicated to the screen: “she spends about 4 hours a day on her mobile, she likes to watch YouTube & rdquor ;. Save the Children’s analysis indicates that 42% of children between the ages of 4 and 14 spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen – a time that exceeds the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization – while in the 2017 they were 25%. In just four years, the percentage has grown by 68%, and the pandemic has influenced this: the closure of schools and extracurricular activities displaced entertainment to screens, and, at the same time, households have been losing purchasing power.

It is the difficulties of reconciling their fathers and mothers, who are usually more humble families who spend a great deal of time at work, for which these boys and girls spend so many hours in front of a mobile, tablets or computer. This, added to the economic difficulties to enjoy extracurricular activities, makes many people spend too many hours in front of a screen, and, at the same time, affects other habits, such as nutritional habits or sleeping hours.

Those who have the least, those who suffer the most from excess weight

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If there is a main factor that determines childhood obesity and overweight, it is family income. “Goodbye to the Mediterranean diet & rdquor; highlights that living in a low-income household almost doubles the probability of being obese or overweight in childhood: from 32.5% for low-income families to 19% for wealthy families. And this is transferred to the rest of the factors: to carry out physical activities, it is reduced to 41% compared to 71%; to eat sweets daily, they rise to 18.1% compared to 10%; and nearly 80% of children who spend less than an hour a day on a screen live in high-income households.

Save the Children includes in its research recommendations in different areas -health, education, tax and others- to reverse these numbers of childhood obesity and overweight. The organization highlights opening school playgrounds on weekends to encourage physical activity and create checks for vulnerable families that allow the purchase of fresh and healthy products and, at the same time, increase the consumption of unhealthy food.

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