Health services, school canteens and the family environment, key to obesity education

  • Up to 25% of the Spanish population is overweight or obese.
  • Up to 40% of young people between 8 and 16 years of age are overweight in Spain.
  • Making healthy eating a family ritual is the main remedy to fight against this problem.

Barcelona, February 2020 – The progressive increase in cases of overweight and obesity, both in children and adults, is of particular concern to public health. Currently, figures show that almost 25% of the Spanish population is already suffering from this type of problem* and a study by the European Association for the Study of Obesity estimates that by 2030 half of the European population will be overweight*. To curb this trend, the Spanish government is considering increasing VAT on high-calorie products such as fast food, pastries, soft drinks and convenience foods, with the aim of reducing their consumption.

“Applying special rates to certain products is a measure that has also been implemented in other countries. This type of action can work, not only as a deterrent to the purchase of high-calorie and fatty foods, but also as an ‘extra economic burden’ to the excessive consumption of unhealthy products, which in the long term leads to the development of pathologies that, as a consequence, will cause public health spending,” says Dr. Ana Mª Luzón, a specialist in nutrition and dietetics and member of Top Doctors.

Up to 40% of young people between 8 and 16 years of age are overweight in Spain.

According to one of the latest WHO communiqués in 2019, “nutrition must be a cornerstone of essential health services. We also need better food environments that enable all people to consume healthy diets.” Obesity in general, and childhood obesity in particular, are already a major concern for different public bodies. According to the report prepared by the Spanish Committee of the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), up to 40% of young people between 8 and 16 years of age are overweight in Spain. This is mainly due to an increase in sedentary lifestyles among the youngest children, followed by poor eating habits resulting from the fact that school meals are usually high in calories and the lack of time of parents, which results in less dedication to cooking, resorting to fast food and attractive restaurants.

Health services, school canteens and the family environment thus become the main environments for education and the fight against obesity. “The family plays a fundamental role in the development of obesity in children, since it is within the family that eating habits are acquired. Genetic factors also have an influence, but education is undoubtedly the main element in learning healthy habits”, explains Dr. Aurelia Villar Bonet, specialist in Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition and member of Top Doctors.

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Cardiovascular diseases, fertility problems or sleep apnea syndrome, among the main consequences of obesity.

Mortality rates are also a clear reflection of the fact that overweight and obesity has become a worldwide epidemic, with nearly three million people worldwide dying from this cause, making it the fifth leading cause of death*. “In adulthood, obesity is a major health problem. In fact, the mortality rate of an obese subject is increasing with respect to the population with normal weight. The fact is that patients with this type of problem are more likely to develop all types of cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the incidence of certain types of cancer increases, such as colon cancer. To this we must add joint problems, sleep apnea syndrome, fatty liver and fertility problems” explains Dr. Agustín Molins, specialist in Nutrition and Dietetics and Aesthetic Medicine and member of Top Doctors.

Eating as a family ritual: the main remedy against childhood obesity

Lack of time, mainly due to work-related issues, means that families increasingly tend to resort to ready-made meals that contain a greater amount of fats and simple sugars, which contributes to an increase in calorie intake and therefore to a decrease in the quality of the food. “It is important to involve the little ones in planning the weekly menu and shopping at the supermarket, making them contribute to healthy choices. Likewise, creating a suitable space with everyone seated at the table as a ritual to be together and talk will help us to frame certain healthy habits in an ideal environment so that they remain well established”. Explains Dr. Agustín Molins, specialist in Nutrition and Dietetics and Aesthetic Medicine and member of Top Doctors.