Over the last three months, Nicole and I have sailed over 1,500 miles across Greece. We have been awed by beautiful scenery, enjoyed the wholesome food, yet been surprised by high rates of obesity, not just in adults, but especially in young children.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) European office for prevention of noncommunicable diseases, Dr. Joao Breda, has said that the Mediterranean diet in Greece is dead and even Swedish children do a better job at following a Mediterranean diet.
Yes, there are awesome Mediterranean food options available, but far too many Greeks (like far too many Americans) have stopped eating them, especially children. A traditional Greek diet based on vegetables, fruits, beans, seafood, plain yogurt, red wine, and olive oil is being replaced by bread, French fries, sweets, candy, ice cream, and sugary drinks. And to stay trim and fit, this is what we should be eating as well.
Not only have the Greeks changed what they eat, but their activity levels have plummeted as well, which is the same trend we are seeing in the United States.
Although adult Greek obesity rates remain lower than in the US for the moment (US adult obesity rates are 38-39% versus 24-25% in Greece), there is a substantial increase in recent years and much higher than other nearby countries that do better at following a Mediterranean diet, such as France, Italy, and Spain.
In Greece, the biggest concern is the change in rates of overweight and obesity rates in children. Unfortunately, the US has also been seeing an increase in children who are obese or overweight, too.
Rates for children being overweight are:
Greece 44% boys 38% girls
US 30% boys 30% girls
Mexico 28% boys 29% girls
Canada 25% boys 24% girls
France 15% boys 15% girls
The economic crisis in Greece has only made things worse. Unemployment rates are nearly 25%, spending on health and social services are down, the country’s mood has clearly worsened with the economic depression, and cheap processed food intake has increased substantially. It seems like Greeks are starting to eat fast, processed food like Americans, and it is killing them.
According to health experts at the WHO, the solution to the weight gain crisis in Greece is for Greeks (as well as for people who are overweight in the US) to resume eating a traditional Mediterranean diet. The critical shift is to stop eating processed food with sugar and flour, and to eat more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, plain yogurt, and seafood—flavored with olive oil, plus herbs and spices.
Multiple studies have shown that the closer you follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, the slimmer you become, and the healthier you will be with less heart disease, less memory loss, and lower rates of cancer as well.
Along with the multiple health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, the weight loss benefits of following a Mediterranean diet has compelled me to research and write my latest book, The Mediterranean Method– Your Complete Plan to Harness the Power of the Healthiest Diet on the Planet — Lose Weight, Prevent Heart Disease, and More! publication date December 31, 2019. The book material comes with 50 awesome recipes, including 20 color photos.
To pre-order The Mediterranean Method, click here.
PS: to learn more of my sailboat travels across Greece and see photos, please visit my Facebook page: MasleyMD
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS
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