Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Obesity and Diet Awareness among Polish Children and Adolescents in Small Towns and Villages

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Obesity and Diet Awareness among Polish Children and Adolescents in Small Towns and Villages

Article excerpt

SUMMARY

Background: In addition to genetic predispositions and environmental factors, healthy lifestyle education is very important for children and adolescents. The purpose of this research was to estimate the number of overweight and obese children and adolescents from small towns and villages and to find out an association between health awareness in children and the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Methods: The research was conducted in 1,515 healthy children aged 6-18 years from small towns and villages in Poland. Overweight was diagnosed when BMI for age and sex was over the 90th percentile; obesity - when it was over the 95th percentile. The study consisted of a lifestyle interview and anthropometrical measurements. The lifestyle interview was conducted with the use of an anonymous questionnaire form and included questions about food frequency, diet habits and physical activity. The research was analysed using the SAS System for Windows, release 8.02.

Results: Overweight status was diagnosed in 9.0% and obesity in 5.1% of respondents. Excess body mass was statistically more frequently diagnosed in girls than in boys aged 14-18 years. Girls of this age group significantly more frequently chose wholemeal bread, smoked sausages, meat and poultry as products that are believed to keep them fit. Older children substantially more often indicated that stress, smoking cigarettes, consuming fatty meat, sweets, being obese, and a lack of physical activity are factors that damage health. Boys spent more time in front of a computer or TV than girls; in the older group of children, the phenomenon even intensified.

Conclusion: Awareness of healthy lifestyle behaviour is not sufficient to maintain optimal body mass. Knowledge about proper eating habits is better among girls than among boys, especially in the older age groups. However, in older groups, there was less physical activity due to spending more time in front of TV or the computer. High percentage of obese/overweight children and insufficient knowledge of nutrition may consequently result in increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases in adult population.

Key words: nutrition, obesity, life style, children and adolescents

INTRODUCTION

In Poland, detection and control of cardiovascular risk factors are still insufficient. Knowledge about proper diet and nutritional education among children and adolescents could therefore help reduce cardiovascular risk factors in general.

The main aim of the Polish 400 Cities Project was to decrease the current morbidity and mortality rates caused by cardiovascular diseases among patients from Polish small towns and villages by means of improved detection and effective risk factors treatment.

The Polish population's awareness of healthy lifestyle behaviours and proper diet for children is still not sufficient. There still exists a common belief that an overweight child is "healthy and well nourished" and that it will "grow out of excess weight". Unfortunately, an obese child will most likely grow into an obese adult and face serious consequences of his or her obesity (1-3). The serious risk factor associated with obesity is insulin resistance leading to diabetes and other disorders (4).

The Polish 400 Cities Project consisted of several complementary modules that were previously published (5-7).

The aim of this research was to analyse the following elements of lifestyle:

- knowledge about nutrition factors influencing health in positive and negative ways;

- the number of meals and kind of favourite meals/products;

- ways of spending free time;

- the amount of time spent in front of TV or computer;

- smoking tobacco.

MATERIALSAND METHODS

The research was conducted on a convenience sample consisting of 1,515 healthy children aged 6-18 years. The children were divided into three age groups, 6-9 years: 367, 10-13 years: 468, and 14-18 years: 680 respondents. …

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