THE Spanish Minister for Health, Elena Salgado, has expressed her “concern” that 6.2 percent of Spanish children and young people do not eat breakfast regularly, and only 7.5 percent of children have a balanced breakfast of milk, fruit or juice, and carbohydrates. To try to combat this state of affairs and to fight obesity, the Minister has started a campaign, to be carried out through the media, with the slogan, “Wake up and have breakfast”, in which the Ministry will invest more than 2.2 million euros. Experts agree on the importance of eating a good quality breakfast as part of the fight to combat obesity in children. Salgado reiterated that 8.5 percent of Spanish children (2 to 17 years old) are obese and 18.2 percent are overweight. Nutritionists also consider that breakfast should provide at least 25 percent of the essential nutrients for children. The Minister also said that obesity is one of the most worrying public health problems due to its high incidence, its “rapid progression” and the impact it has on chronic diseases, with the consequent cost to the health and loss of quality of life of the individual. The World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the number of overweight people in the world at 1'000 million and the number of obese people at 300 million.
In Spain, half the adult population weighs more than is considered normal, 39.2 percent are overweight and 15.5 percent are obese, according to the National Health Poll 2003. The main causes of this rise in obesity in Spain are attributable to two changes: the change in eating habits and the change in exercise habits.
A menu rich in fruits, vegetables and cereals has been replaced by food abundant in meat, milk and bakery products and carbonated drinks, which are very much easier to prepare and eat but have a high calorie content. To this must be added the growing levels of children who take little or no exercise.
Spain is, in fact, the second European country in which children take least exercise in their free time, only exceeded by Portugal.
Some 38 percent of Spanish children prefer to watch television, play computer games or sit at their computer instead of taking exercise.
The figures also show that one in three children have a low level of physical activity outside of school, which means that they exercise for less than one hour per day. This campaign, which will be broadcast via the media up to November 30, will try to instil healthy eating habits into the population.
The campaign is directed especially at children and adolescents because these are the ages when good eating habits can be instilled which will be carried on into adult life. According to the Minister there are studies, such as EnKid from 2001, which show that 59.5 percent of children spend less than 10 minutes at breakfast.
This lack of time at the breakfast table is also associated with a low nutritional quality in their breakfast habits.
On the subject of quality of breakfast, 19.3 percent of the child population just have a glass of milk for breakfast and 56 percent have some form of carbohydrate with it. As regardso the lack of exercise, Spanish boys and girls spend an average of two and a half hours a day watching television.
They spend another half an hour playing computer games or on the computer instead of exercising.


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