OKkio alla SALUTE: decreases in child obesity, but still a serious situation

News from the Ministry of Health ai??i?? Italy

From 2008 to present the number of overweight and obese children aged 8-9 years has slightly decreased, but Italy remains at the top in Europe for weight excess in children. Among children, some wrong food habits and sedentary lifestyles are still too common, even though children doing physical activities have slightly increased.

This is the picture taken in 2012 by the surveillance system ai???Okkio alla SALUTEai???, promoted by the Ministry of Health within the strategic program ai???Guadagnare salute ai??i?? Rendere facili le scelte salutariai??? (Gaining health ai??i?? Facilitating healthy choices). The detection involved 46.492 children in 2.623 third grades.

The 2012 data show that 22,1% of children aged 8-9 are overweight when in 2008/09 they were 23,2% (-1,1%), and that 10,2% are obese while in 2008/09 they were 12% (- 1,8%). Overall, then, in 2012 the 32,3% of third grade children is in a condition of weight excess (-2,9% compared to the first detection).

The highest percentages about overweight and obesity were collected in the Central and Southern regions: in Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia e Basilicata the weight excess affects over 40% of the sample, while in Sardegna, Valle dai??i??Aosta e Trentino-Alto Adige the weight excess affects less than 25%.

Food education keeps being fundamental: among children there are still too many habits that can lead to weight increase, especially when concomitant. Particularly, 9% of children skip breakfast and 31% have a non-proper breakfast (that is unbalanced in terms of carbohydrates and proteins); 67% have a too heavy mid-morning snack; 21% of parents declare that their children don’t eat daily fruits and/or vegetables; 43% consume regularly sweetened and/or carbonated drinks.

Data about physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles show a small improvement, though remaining high: 16% of children practice a sport just for an hour a week or less, compared to 25% in 2008/09; 17% didn’t do any physical activity the day before the investigation (in 2008/09 it was 26%); 42% have a TV in their bedroom (-6%), 36% watch TVAi?? and/or play with video-games for more than 2 hours a day (-11%) and just one in four children goes to school on foot or by bike.

These findings underline the need to invest even more in prevention to reduce inequality, and health and social costs.

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Nordic walking – a great way to exercise!

Nordic Walking puts in motion approximately 90% of the body muscles.

The help of sticks considerably reduces fatigue, sharing it over the whole body. You can rediscover walking with four points of contact on the ground in the city, in the countryside, in the mountains and by the sea.

Nordic Walking is recommended for all, regardless of age and physical condition because it:

ai??? restores posture and coordination

ai??? improves flexibility and joint mobility

ai??? increases calorie consumption up to 45% compared to normal walking

ai??? boosts aerobic resistance by increasing heart rate (average 10/17 beats per minute) with respect to the normal-walking

ai??? induces increased muscle tone, engaging almost all of the musculature

ai??? reduces muscle tension in the shoulders and neck

ai??? increases the metabolism of theAi??spineAi??intervertebral discs facilitating the prevention and treatment of back problems

ai??? strengthens the immuneAi??and cardiovascularAi??system

ai??? is recommended to complete rehabilitation phases of the lower limbs and fast recovery of mobility

ai??? provides out-door activity which has anti-stress and anti-depressive effects.

Why not give it a go!


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Let’s dispel some myths about food and nutrition!

This thought provoking post comes from our Italian Partners. How many did you get right?

Fasting makes you lose weightAi??Ai?? FALSE

Weight lost through fasting involves minimal loss of fat mass, while it involves mainly lean body mass and water, so it is easy to gain that weight again. It takes time to lose weight, and it is necessary to follow a varied diet, eating a little of everything in the correct proportions, keeping the balance between the various macro and micro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein, fibre, minerals) and increasing energy expenditure with constant physical exercise.

Seed oil is more caloric than olive oilAi??Ai?? FALSE

The calories of every fat are the same: 9 kcal/gram. Seed oils, in general, are less flavoured than the olive oil, which is an oil extracted from a fruit, so it also has protective characteristics. Extra virgin olive oil is an extremely healthy and genuine, with a high digestibility. It differs from other oils as it bears high temperatures more than any other. Itai??i??s absolutely the most suitable for frying, as it preserves its properties without deterioration, resisting temperatures up to 180Ai??C.

If you chew slowly, you eat lessAi??Ai?? TRUE

The information about being sated takes 15 minutes to reach the brain starting from the stomach. If you chew slowly, you eat less.

Replacing bread with breadsticks helps you to lose weightAi??Ai?? FALSE

Bread is made of water, flour, salt and yeast. Breadsticks and crackers contain also fats (vegetable, lard) and so they have more calories (from 350 to 450 kcal/100g), while more dietetic breads, like wholemeal bread and hard wheat bread (bread from Puglia), have respectively 224kcal/100g – 289kcal/100g). In addition to this, bread satiates much more, also thanks to the great presence of fibre, especially in wholemeal bread.

If I donai??i??t have breakfast, I have saved many caloriesAi??Ai?? FALSE

In the morning your body needs to regain what it has consumed while sleeping, and it needs fresh and immediate energy to face the day. All scientific research agrees that, according to facts, skipping breakfast is a wrong habit, often connected to situations of overweight and obesity.

Alcohol has more calories than sugarAi??Ai?? TRUE

Alcohol has 7kcal in 1 gram, while sugar has just 4kcal in 1 gram.

Wine is recommended in dietsAi??Ai?? FALSE

Any alcoholic drink, besides giving ai???emptyai??i?? calories (without any nutrient, apart from sugars), implements the production of gastric juices which improve the sense of hunger.

All fibre is the sameAi?? FALSE

There are two main types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. The first ones are in wheat bran, in dried fruit and in many vegetables: they are so called because they donai??i??t dissolve in water, so they can pass almost unchanged through the gastrointestinal tract increasing stool bulk (this is recommended for those who suffer from constipation). Soluble fibres are in oat, barley, beans and in some fruits: they dissolve in water creating, in the gastrointestinal tract a gelatinous material, that slows absorption. Moreover, if consumed regularly, they reduce the level of cholesterol LDL (the ai???badai??i?? one).

Frozen vegetables contain the same nutritional values of the fresh onesAi??Ai?? TRUE

Frozen vegetables perfectly keep their nutritional qualities, and sometimes even more than fresh vegetables. During the packaging process, vegetables lose a small part of their vitamins and minerals, but it is a minimal part if compared to the properties lost by fresh vegetables during a few days if not frozen. To keep their nutritional qualities it is important to:

  • Avoid breaking the cold chain using coolbags for transport.
  • When unfrozen, they should be consumed immediately, within a maximum of 4 days. You mustnai??i??t refreeze them, also because they would lose most of their nutritional properties.
  • The ideal way to cook frozen vegetables without making them lose their nutritional properties is to cook them in a pan, or steamed, without unfreezing them.
  • If the package, when you buy them, presents frost or moisture on the surface, it means that the cold chain has been broken.

Wholemeal bread has less calories than normal breadAi??Ai?? FALSE

They have the same amount of calories. Wholemeal bread is better because it contains more fibre.

Eating ‘light’ foods makes you lose weightAi??Ai?? FALSE

Light foods are foods with a lower amount of calories because they have been processed to subtract fats and sugars, but in their place artificial additives were added, which often are not the best for health.

It is difficult not to believe that light foods can help us to lose weight. But for some psychological mechanisms, on the contrary, we may eat bigger quantities of light foods than we would do with normal food, as shown by many researches. Moreover, light foods hide thinner psychological traps. In fact, our body reacts to food in ways we cannot be conscious of. Brain ai???remembersai??i?? the nutritional capacity of food, and according to its expectations it rules the sense of hunger.


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Debt and our Health

Itai??i??s easy toAi?? imagine how debt can effect peopleai??i??s health directly ai??i?? sleepless nights and ulcers due to worry ai??i?? but thereai??i??s more to it than that. A recent study by CAB (Citizenai??i??s Advice Bureau) has found some alarming statistics on the impact debt can have on peopleai??i??s health.

Citizens Advice found that 74% of respondents said debt had impacted their mental health, while 54% said their physical health had been affected, adding that of those experiencing health problems, 51% had experienced a panic or anxiety attack, and 79% were losing sleep most nights because of debt.

Furthermore, 56% of respondents said that worry about debt was affecting their relationships, while 51% of those in employment and struggling with debt said that their work performance was suffering.

Another interesting angle is what people do to try to cope with the pressure ai??i?? drinking, smoking and eating too much. They found that 29% of respondents said they tried to take their mind off their debt problems by drinking, 24% by eating, and 29% by smoking, while 35% were taking no action about their debts and hoping the problem would go away. The chart above also shows that debt can lead to illness when people turn off their heating to save money or eat lower quality food to economise.

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The American Dream …


Dream or nightmare? What do you think!

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Third Partner Meeting – Portugal

The third Partner Meeting was held in Arcos De Valdevez, Portugal, November 1st – 4th 2012. The meeting proved to be both valuable, interesting and enjoyable and our hosts – Rui, Ana, Marta and George made us all most welcome! Discussions centred on the work each partner has carried out so far and on plans for the future.

Click here to read the meeting agenda and minutes: Portugal Meeting notes


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Do you have a healthy BMI?

The Body Mass Index (or BMI) is a way of seeing if your weight is appropriate for your height. The actual calculation is your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in metres) squared but it’s also easy to read on the chart. BMI can be divided into several categories and generally the higher your BMI, the greater your risk of a large range of medical problems.

BMI charts are calculated for adults only (separate charts are available for childrenai??i??s weight and heights). Inaccuracies can also occur if you’re an athlete or very muscular as this can give you a higher BMI even if you have a healthy level of body fat and this BMI chart is not appropriate for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people who are very frail.


The BBC have a great tool you can use to check your BMI here!


15-minute daily exercise is ‘bare minimum for health’

Just 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase life expectancy by three years and cut death risk by 14%, according to recent research.

The Lancet study, based on a review of more than 400,000 people in Taiwan, showed 15 minutes per day or 90 minutes per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, can add three years to your life. Meanwhile, work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests a couch potato lifestyle with six hours of TV a day cuts lifespan by five years.

Another benefit is that people who start to do more exercise tend to get a taste for it and up their daily quota. More exercise led to further life gains. Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise further reduced all-cause death rates by 4%. Moderate exercise does not have to be a long jog, it could be a brisk walk to work or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

The UK government recently updated its advice to have a more flexible approach, recommending adults get 150 minutes of activity a week. This could be a couple of 10-minute bouts of activity every day or 30-minute exercise sessions, five times a week, for example.



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A healthy start in life?

Vania has found this photo. Not the best start to a long and healthy life! Click on the picture to see it full size.

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Dissemination in the UK

Richard Jack of UK Partners Crystal, recently presented the Healthy Lifestyles project to a group of trainee Food Technology Teachers at Liverpool John Moores University as part of a talk to the teachers about their Food in Focus2 software which is being used in the Project to analyse diets and recipes, promoting Healthy Lifestyles. The photo shows the spectacular ‘Food Academy’ at the University which will soon be using the software in their nutritional analysis work.

The Food Academy LJMU

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