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Half of Cypriot children are obese

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Half of Cyprus’ children aged seven to nine are obese, with the island holding one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the EU.

This was the data given to MPs during Thursday’s session at the House Health Committee.

Data from surveys presented before the House revealed that in 2020, 49% of children aged seven to nine were obese, with a worrying trend building up.

The obesity rate amongst young children (7-9) was 22% in 2012, going up to 33% in 2017 and reaching 49% in 2020.

The obesity rate for all children up until 18 stands at a worrying 38%.

According to the data, Cyprus also has the most unfit girls and the second lowest rate after Italy for unfit boys.

In addition, one in three students has a higher-than-normal cholesterol concentration in their blood, while students’ mental health wasn’t the best.

The Cyprus Association of Dietitians president Eleni Andreou said that based on the data, 55% of obese children have an 80% chance of becoming obese teenagers and a 90% chance of becoming obese adults.

In ages 6-12, she said the rate of childhood obesity is at 28% for boys and 26% for girls.

Andreou said the Education Ministry is not doing enough to promote health and fitness among students.

“It is unacceptable that first graders at Cyprus’ Lyceums only get one hour of PE weekly,” said Andreou.

President of the paediatric society Michalis Anastasiades said: “Obesity is the longest-running pandemic affecting the world’s population”.

“Obesity is considered a disease, and we emphasize that prevention today will prevent tomorrow’s heart patients and diabetics.”

Committee chair Savia Orphanidou said the situation was “worrying” and called the alarming childhood obesity rates “a long-lasting pandemic and the scourge of our time.”

“It is for this reason we praise the Health Ministry for having set up a dedicated committee to promote healthy eating for children,” Orphanidou said.

The MP also stressed the health and education ministries should work together to promote physical exercise and healthy activities at all levels.