NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Super-Sizing Europeans

November 19, 2003

As the traditional Mediterranean diet disappears from plates in Italy, the consequences could be huge. Long-touted for its health benefits by doctors the world over, the classic regimen is losing out to American-style eating habits. This is resulting in rapidly increasing levels of American-style obesity.

The latest report on obesity in Italy has found:

  • Twenty-five percent of Italian children are now overweight or obese making them the heaviest in Europe.
  • Some thirty-six percent of children between the ages of 6 and 10 are overweight.
  • Morbid obesity among men has tripled in the past six years.
  • Some 21 percent of men and nearly 24 percent of women are now considered obese, a three-fold increase in 20 years.
  • There is fear that without urgent action, obesity levels in Britain will soar 40 percent or more within a generation.
  • Sweden has negotiated voluntary restrictions on TV advertising soft drinks, snacks and junk food aimed at children.
  • A British member of Parliament has introduced a bill to ban the advertising of foods containing high levels of sugar, fat and salt during preschool TV programs.
  • The British medical journal Lancet has called for celebrities to be prohibited from endorsing junk food; and the British Medical Association has called for a 17.5 percent "fat tax" on junk foods.

Italy has also taken action; its health minister has asked restaurants to reduce the size of their portions. He has also proposed making Friday a day of fasting.

Source: Ellen Hale, "Junk food super-sizing Europeans, USA Today, "November 18, 2003.

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