There are more than 500,000 fat and obese children in Israel, a World Health Organization report shows, making Israel the country with the second highest rate of childhood obesity compared to European countries – and the third highest in the world. Israeli adults are more overweight than adults in any European countries.
The interim report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity was prepared by WHO in advance of an international day to encourage weight loss and prevent obesity next week. Based on the criteria of BMI – body mass index, a measure of the amount of fat an individual carries – it was found that 12.6 percent of Israeli children were overweight. Israel was bested in this statistic only by the United States, where 12.9 percent of children are overweight. In European countries the figure was 7.4 percent.
According to the report, “the obesity epidemic has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to the increased longevity observed in the developed world.” Among the negative health effects of obesity are high blood pressure, insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia (an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood). “Being obese as a child increases the likelihood of being obese as an adult and obesity in adulthood is strongly associated with comorbidities that contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” the report said.
Speaking to Yediot Achronot, Dr. Gal Dubenov-Raz, a senior doctor at Sheba Hospital, called the situation “a ticking time bomb. The simple reason for this is that children are taking in more calories than they are expending. The WHO study said that Western children in general eat more and exercise less, and they drink a great deal of sugar-added beverages.” In some countries, schools conduct physical activity lessons every day, “but not in Israel, where most schools have such lessons once a week. In addition, schools do not discuss proper nutrition, and although the Health Ministry is making efforts, it is too little and too late.”