The Spanish Health Ministry has released a study showing that the number of overweight and obese people in Spain has doubled over the course of the last 18 years. The Ministry began a study in 2003 in which, of a random sample, 13.6 percent of people were obese and 38.6 percent of people were overweight.
The Nutrition and Obesity Prevention Strategy (NAOS) will try to lower these figures, which it says are due in large part to increased consumption of fast food and frozen meals. The NAOS will ask the fast food industry to lower sodium content by 10 percent and try to initiate health programs and healthy snacks in elementary school around Spain.
As fast and pre-packaged foods increase in popularity in Spain, so have the population's belt sizes, according to a study by the Health Ministry that was released on Tuesday.
In 2003, 13.6 percent of those examined were considered obese and 36.8 percent overweight.
The proportion of overweight and obese people is 6.3 percent higher than the conclusions reached in a similar study two years ago.
In 1987, the first year the ministry began collecting this data, the obese population amounted to 7.4 percent.
The Socialist administration will use this information as part of its Nutrition and Obesity Prevention Strategy, or NAOS.
Unveiled in February, NAOS calls on the processed foods industry to reduce the sodium content of their products by 10 percent.
The plan also calls for schools begin nutrition lessons and to not offer unhealthy snack foods.
"The biggest problems have to do with habits and lifestyles," said Health Minister Elena Salgado.
Food choices were singled out in the study, especially dairy products, fast food and processed foods.
The study found that of the people questioned under the age of 18, 8.5 percent were obese and 18.2 percent were overweight.
A lack of exercise was another key reason for the rise in obesity, the study said.
About 55 percent of Spaniards said that they do not do any physical exercise in their spare time.
In response to this, Salgado recommended that citizens walk 40 minutes four times per week.
Overall, the study
said, women exercise less than men, and children are likely not to exercise because of television.
About 89 percent of people under the age of 18 watch television daily and about 45 percent watch up to two hours per day.
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