Spanish children heaviest in all of Europe

by Lorraine Williamson
obesity in Spanish children

Save the Children comes with an alarming message about children in Spain: As many as one in five Spanish children under the age of 18 is overweight. With this figure, Spain tops the European ranking for childhood obesity. 

In its latest report “Adiós a la dieta mediterránea” (Goodbye to the Mediterranean diet), the international organisation reports worrying figures about obesity in Spain. Childhood obesity, according to the organisation, is something that is increasingly linked to lower-income families. The figures from the report also confirm that Spain, along with Italy and Cyprus, are the European leaders in childhood obesity. 

Mediterranean diet supplanted by sugars and fast food 

It is not so much the Mediterranean diet itself that is unhealthy. On the contrary, not very long ago this diet was seen by Bloomberg as the healthiest diet there is. Nevertheless, the diet in Mediterranean countries seems to be making more and more room for products full of sugar and fast food instead of vegetables, fruit, and fish. 

Baycrest Wealth

Spain leads the European ranking in childhood obesity 

Almost 28.1% of Spanish young people under the age of 18 have been overweight since the corona pandemic. However, before the pandemic, the percentage was not much lower. Then 27.2% of young people in Spain were overweight. On average, one in eight children aged 7-8 in Europe is obese. Whereas, in Spain, one in five children of this age has to deal with this. 

Causes of obesity in children 

Save the Children believes that socio-economic factors play a significant role in childhood obesity. In lower-income households, 32.5% of children are overweight. This percentage is much lower (19%) in higher-income households. People with higher incomes have more resources to ensure a balanced diet. The organisation does mention that the recent price increases, as a result of inflation, do not help to promote healthy food for children. 

Save the Children’s figures show, among other things, that: 

  • the quality of the food is insufficient. 10 % of children from higher-income households eat sweets every day, compared to over 18% of children from lower-income households. 
  • children move too little. 41% of children from lower-income households participate in sports on a daily basis, compared to 71% of children from higher-income households. 
  • children sleep too little. 28% of children from higher-income households sleep on average more than 10 hours a day. However, this percentage is much lower (9%) among children from lower-income households. 
  • the number of hours of screen time is too high. Nearly 80% of children from higher-income households spend less than an hour a day in front of a screen. This compares to 46.3% of children from lower-income households spending more than 5 hours a day in front of a screen. 

Also read: The guru of the Mediterranean diet 


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