Kindergarten children in Bulgaria rank third position for overweight and obese pre-school youngsters, according to a new survey by researchers in Europe. 14% of all children aged 5-6 years old are overweight or obese in Bulgaria, in contrast with Germany where fewer than 10% carry excess weight.
Results of the survey form part of the ToyBox-study, presented at the International Congress on Nutrition, Granada, Spain. The team of ToyBox researchers examined over 7000 children in 300 kindergartens in six sample countries: Poland, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, Germany and Belgium.
The results show great variation between the countries (see table) which overshadow the differences between girls and boys, and the differences between children of higher-educated parents and those of less educated parents.
The survey, led by Dr Yannis Manios of Harokopio University, Athens, Greece, also asked parents about children's lack of physical activity. A quarter of all the children surveyed had a television in their bedrooms, with Bulgarian families topping the league (nearly 70% have a TV, and 44% a computer, in the child's bedroom in contrast with Germany - only 6 % ).
| ||Belgium ||Germany||Greece||Bulgaria||Poland||Spain||All|
|Children aged 5-6years overweight or obese||12%||9%||20%||14% ||13% ||24% ||15%|
|Children 5-6 years with TV in bedroom||15% ||6% ||27% ||69% ||32% ||14% ||25% |
|Children 5-6 years with computer in bedroom||9% ||2% ||9% ||44% ||24% ||9% ||14% |
Dr Manios and his team highlighted the need for health-promoting policies. 'We found that many countries are lacking clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play,' he said. 'However, there is good evidence linking sedentary behaviour (like TV watching) with subsequent obesity. TVs in the bedroom and unhealthy snacks in the kitchen cupboard are a bad idea. Parents should also remember that their role is not only to provide healthy food and drink options but to act as a role model themselves, since kids are copying their behaviours.'
Prof. Iotova said that ToyBoy is going to give us more knowledge and opportunities for young parents to ensure healthy start for their children's lives. "It is not pleasant to be ranked first for heaving TV's at children bedrooms as well as the only one with TVs at kindergartens. But coping with the problem provide great opportunities for prevention of obesity in our country in the future".
The multi-country research project is supported by a €2.9m grant from the European Commission, and will include development and testing of a new programme designed to help kindergartens in 6 EU-countries to promote healthy snacking, water consumption, physical activity and limiting sedentary activities such as TV-watching and playing computer games. The intervention has already finished and now it is processed with the results, its evaluation and publishing, which is expected with great interest and hope for new opportunities to prevent the children from obesity.