Sun Setting on the Mediterranean Diet

Expanding waistlines prompted Europe's health chief to issue a public invitation for suggestions to help tackle obesity, especially among children.

A European Commission survey acknowledges this bulging problem:

Obesity levels are increasing at an alarming rate, with up to 27% of men and 38% of women now considered to be obese in some parts of the European Union (EU). The number of overweight children is also growing rapidly, currently rising by 400,000 a year. Obesity is a risk factor for many serious illnesses including heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Poor nutrition and insufficient exercise are among the leading causes of avoidable death in Europe, and obesity related illnesses are estimated to account for as much as 7% of total healthcare costs in the EU.

Reuters reports that the problem of tackling obesity widens in Mediterranean or southern Europe:

The problem is worst in southern countries, as traditionally healthy Mediterranean diets give way to processed foods rich in fat, sugar and salt--although Poland and Britain have also seen steep rises in child obesity in recent years.
Spain, Portugal and Italy report obesity levels above 30 percent in children aged between 7 and 11, the Commission says.
Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live offers insight on the devolution of the Mediterranean Diet:
In the 1950s people living in the Mediterranean, especially on the island of Crete, were lean and virtually free of heart disease. Yet over 40 percent of their caloric intake come from fat, primarily olive oil. If we look at the diet they consumed back then, we note that Cretans ate mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and some fish. Saturated fat was less than 6 percent of their total fat intake. True, they ate lots of olive oil, but the rest of their diet was exceptionally healthy. They also worked hard in the fields, walking about nine miles a day, often pushing a plow or working other manual farm equipment.
Today the people of Crete are fat, just like us. They're still eating alot of olive oil, but their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and beans is down. Meat, cheese, and fish are their new staples, and their physical activity level has plummeted. Today, heart disease has skyrocketed and more than half the population of both adults and children in Crete is overweight.1

1. Kafatos, A., A. Diacatou, G. Voukiklaris, et al. 1997. Heart disease risk-factor status and dietary changes in the Cretan population over the past 30 years: the Seven Countries Study. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 65 (6):1882-86.

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