`Mediterranean Diet Protective Against Obesity in Children

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Mediterranean Diet Protective Against Obesity in Children

Jan. 29, 2015
Katherine Barrier

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File this under no sur­prise:” A recent study from eight Euro­pean coun­tries has shown evi­dence that chil­dren who con­sume a Mediter­ranean diet may be 15 per­cent less likely to be over­weight or obese.

The results of the study con­ducted by Dr. Gian­luca Tognon from the Uni­ver­sity of Gothen­burg, Swe­den were first pre­sented at the Euro­pean Con­gress on Obe­sity in Sofia, Bul­garia last June.

Researchers exam­ined data gath­ered from the IDEFICS study, a Euro­pean project that lasted from Sep­tem­ber 2006 to Feb­ru­ary 2012 with the goal of assess­ing the prob­lem of obe­sity in chil­dren.

Data from IDEFICS included height, weight, body fat per­cent­age and waist cir­cum­fer­ence from chil­dren in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Ger­many, Bel­gium, Hun­gary, Esto­nia and Swe­den. In rela­tion to the children’s diets, par­ents filled out a ques­tion­naire sup­plied from IDEFICS that defined the fre­quency with which 43 com­mon foods were con­sumed. Dr. Tongon’s team gath­ered addi­tional dietary data by inter­view­ing a sam­ple of par­ents from the IDEFICS study.

Chil­dren were then scored on their adher­ence to foods con­sid­ered to be sta­ples of a Mediter­ranean diet, includ­ing fish, veg­eta­bles, fruits, cereal grains and nuts. A sin­gle point was given for every Mediter­ranean food group eaten, and another point was given if chil­dren had a low intake of foods not con­sid­ered typ­i­cal of the Mediter­ranean diet like meat and dairy.

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The results of Dr. Tognon’s study showed that chil­dren with a higher num­ber of points were 10 to 15 per­cent less likely to be over­weight or obese com­pared to chil­dren with a lower num­ber of points. These chil­dren were also less likely to go through major changes on the BMI scale or gain body fat.

The study also showed that Ital­ian chil­dren were the most likely to con­sume a Mediter­ranean diet and in Swe­den, where the chil­dren had the high­est fre­quen­cies of intakes of
cereal grains, fruit, nuts and veg­eta­bles.

The take home mes­sage,” Dr. Tognon said, is that there is a need to rec­om­mend to chil­dren a dietary pat­tern, par­tic­u­larly in the Mediter­ranean coun­tries where peo­ple might still be con­vinced that they are fol­low­ing a diet like this, which is often not true any­more.”

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