Study Shows Obesity Among Children a Growing Problem

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli children are too fat, even as early as in first grade, a Health Ministry report said. Approximately one-fifth of first graders are overweight or obese, but by the time kids get to seventh grade, that figure rises to about a third of all students. The fattest children are in the Arab sector, while chareidi and Bedouin children are among the least fat.

The numbers were supplied in advance of a Knesset discussion on the planned labeling of unhealthy food, planned for next year. According to rules proposed by the Health Ministry, food products that have more than 800 milligrams of salt, more than 22.5 grams of sugar, and more than 6 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams of product will be labeled with a red mark, to indicate that it is unhealthy.

At a later stage, more stringent rules will take effect, with red marks for products with 500 milligrams of salt, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams. By 2020, the third stage of labeling will take effect, affecting products with 400 milligrams of salt, 4 grams of saturated fat and 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

Among first graders, 20.9 percent of children in secular schools were overweight or obese, as were 19 percent of children in Arab schools. Seventeen and a half percent of first graders in state religious schools were overweight or obese, as were 12.9 percent of chareidi first graders. The least fat among that age group were in the Bedouin sector, with just 11.6 percent of children overweight or obese.

Among seventh graders the situation was much more severe. Statistics show 36.5 percent of Arab children were overweight or obese, as were 28.7 percent of children in the secular school system and 27.4 percent of seventh graders in the state religious school system. Bedouin seventh graders were slightly less fat, with 27.1 percent fat or overweight — with the least fat seventh graders in chareidi schools, where 23.6 percent were overweight or obese.

Outgoing Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said of the statistics that “Israeli children are dealing with a serious overweight issue. It is unhealthy for them, for their parents and for the state. We must stop this plague of sugar and fat that harms children.”