No less than 19 out of the 34 countries in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development have a majority population that is overweight or obese, and in some cases, by the year 2020, two out of three people will be in this category, according to a recent report from the organisation that has shifted the food and obesity debate into high gear again. Most alarming are the statistics on children, with about 27 per cent of girls and 23 per cent of boys in England deemed overweight.
The trend continues here in the UAE, with obesity among young people at two to three times greater than the international standard, according to a national study of 145,492 pupils by Saif Bin Ghobash Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah; while UAE University reports 18 per cent of Emirati students between the ages of 12 and 18 are obese.
Proof of the problem shifts the focus to foods that target children, specifically breakfast cereals and their high sugar content. Some of these cereals have a sugar content of up to 56 per cent, giving children 20 grams of sugar per cup of serving. This would be unhealthy for an adult, but for children, who have more sensitive kidney and liver function, the consequences of consuming this level of sugar is worse.
While legislation has a role – for example, the UK government has proposed a limit of 30 per cent sugar content in cereals – for now, it is up to parents to read the ingredients list and to avoid products in which sugar or any of its forms is among the top five.
Nature's Path, available at many local supermarkets, offers cereals sweetened with apple juice or honey, which are child friendly. Other options include oatmeal sweetened with honey, fruit smoothies or homemade granola and yogurt.
Children are more sensitive to food and its ingredients: we need to take extra care to make sure what we feed our family is nurturing and not damaging.
Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to www.BeUtifulYou.Com