One in every five Spanish children between the ages of three and 12 are either overweight or obese according to a study of over 17,000 children in 24 different towns and citiesacross six autonomous communities carried out by Thao-Salud Infantil in conjunction with the Spanish Society of Nutrition.
Apart from highlighting the fact that 7% of 3-5 year olds are obese and11% of them are overweight, what really concerned the president of the Spanish Society of Nutrition, Gregorio Varela, is that "the percentage of children who are overweight or obese increaseswith age".
Between the ages of 6 and 9 years the number of children who are either overweight or obese reaches 21%, and between 10 and 12 it rises to 23% almost a quarter of the populationwithin this age range, with girls being affected more than boys (23% compared with 19,3%).
This is the largest study carried out to date in Spain and the most recent to cover this sector of thepopulation. It included a survey on physical activity, diet and sleeping habits and showed clearly that a substantial proportion of children are taking in far more calories than they are burning.
The study highlighted how little physical activity children do at the weekends, with 43% admitting that they did no sport or physical activity whatsoever on Sundays, preferring sedentaryactivities like playing with video games, on the computer or watching television.
Doctor Rafael Casas, Director & National Coordinator of the Thao Programme, said that the only way to combatchildhood obesity was to encourage outdoor play after school and sporting activities with the family and on weekends.
The survey also showed that children who sleep less have more problems withtheir weight. 70% of those surveyed sleep between 8 and 10 hours, 20% sleep more than 10 horas and 3,4% sleep less than 8 hours.
Spain has one of the highest levels of childhood obesity in the world