Weighing the evidence: insights from European childhood obesity study
Child obesity is not a challenge families can tackle on their own, say EU-funded researchers. Following a five-year study involving thousands of children, they conclude that governments must do more to help.
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The I.Family study has taken the measure of Europes plus-sized kids. In February 2017, it presented its findings on the wide variety of factors that are compromising our offsprings chances of maintaining a healthy weight. Controlling these factors is not a challenge parents should be left to face on their own, the partners note.
I.Family followed in the footsteps of an earlier project, which had involved surveys of children in eight EU countries. It reassessed nearly 10 000 of these children several years on, at a time where they were entering into adolescence, in a bid to shed more light on the biological, behavioural, social and environmental aspects relevant to diet and health.
What can be done to tip the scales in favour of healthier weights? While there can be no one-size-fits-all solution, measures addressing the various influences and risk factors involved could go a long way.
Key findings from the I.Family project notably include the observations that the food consumed by Europes young is too rich, and that children spend too much time sitting in front of a television or computer screen, where they are exposed to the marketing pressure of unhealthy foods. The bulk of what our children eat is made up of foodstuffs that are nearly twice as calorific as those that might form the basis of a balanced diet. Moreover, most children are far less active than the World Health Organization recommends.
While parents can attempt to foster more appropriate choices, other aspects may be well beyond their reach. Decisions to build a park or a playground, for example, are not taken at household level, and yet the availability of suitable open spaces helps to encourage physical activity.
There are many ways for authorities to act, and the projects conclusions provide plenty of inspiration. Government intervention is vital if we are to stem the tide of obesity across Europe and beyond, says I.Family coordinator Wolfgang Ahrens of the University of Bremen and the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology BIPS, Germany.