Unfortunately, obesity in the childhood is already a fact in our country as well. What do you think, which are the main causes?
Rayna Stoyanova, MD:
The obesity epidemic which started in the US in the end of the 70’s is spread throughout the world at the moment, as fast food is one of its vectors. Between 1984 and 1993 the number of fast food restaurants in UK has doubled and the percentage of obesity among children as well. Overweight in the young is a much smaller problem in Italy and Spain where people spend relatively less for fast food. The increasing popularity of fast food is only one of the many cultural changes, brought by globalization. It looks like wherever the fast food chains go, the waists of their consumers start to increase.
Together with the global tendency to obesity, Bulgarian kids quickly take their place among the Western and American children. Every fifth pupil here is with overweight and Bulgaria is on second place in the World for obesity and overweight in this age group after the US.
It is often commented that nutrition affects most directly health and immunity. Would you formulate several tips in this direction about nutrition in early spring both for children and their parents?
Rayna Stoyanova, MD:
The natural defensive forces of the organism are tested in winter and different viruses stalk from everywhere – that’s why nutrition in these months, except for everything else, should promote our immunity. The healthy weight is the basis of good immunity – overweight, as well as underweight, hinder the immune functions. People with obesity more often suffer from respiratory diseases and show higher percentage of infections after surgery. The lack of some vitamins is also one of the causes for weakened immunity in the winter and spring months: Vitamin D, which fights the lack of calcium, comes from fish, eggs and dairy products, and is synthesized by our skin under the action of the sun rays. The reduction of solar radiation often leads to its deficiency.
Vitamin A is responsible for strengthening the body’s natural defense and increases the resistance against respiratory infections. This vitamin is found in many products: carrots, green vegetables, exotic fruits. The famous vitamin C has an active anti-microbial effect and stimulates the white blood cells in the synthesis of antibodies. Moreover, it promotes the formation of interferon – a substance that prevents the growth of viruses. It is found in many fruits – kiwi, citruses, as well as in garlic and leeks, so eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. In summary, maintain a healthy body weight, eat variable and balanced food and focus on fruits and vegetables. Add immunostimulating foods and drink enough water. The physical activity also strengthens your health and occupies key place in the process of weight maintenance, so do not neglect it.
What are the main eating habits which the parents should educate to ensure proper nutrition? Why most of the postulates from the past are now denied?
Rayna Stoyanova, MD:
Most of the parents know in theory what is good for their children and what is harmful, but more often the useful seems too complex, slow for preparing and expensive. The more and more dynamic life of today’s mothers and fathers, the abundance of preservatives and unhealthy foods on the market, the neglecting of physical activity and last but not least – the massive invasion of television, computers and electronic games which replaced sports and outdoor games, contributes to the greatest extend to frightening trend of overweight among children and adolescents. Moreover, there is understanding in our country that if a child is rather plump and eats well, it is healthy.
Remember – children are not adults, they are not capable of controlling themselves in the same way the adults do or have to do it.
Children with overweight need special attention and care, not our anger, judgments and criticism or demonstration of disappointment. If your child is overweight, you are probably concerned as parents and the act of understanding and parental responsibility are the most effective and productive way to a correct approach.
Many parents are afraid to say “no!” to their child when it wants to eat hamburgers, pizzas, chips, waffles, etc. They are embarrassed from the child’s anger and disappointment and let themselves be manipulated by it, give up and helplessly watch afterwards how their child overeats with harmful food. My main advice is related to teaching the children to eat regularly, and not to “eat” between the meals.
Breakfast ensures the necessary mental and physical performance in the first half of the day and it is not right the child’s day to begin with pastries and cakes, bought from outside – they contain much more calories, salt, sweeteners and harmful fats and meanwhile they are not at all rich in useful nutrients that a child especially needs.
The middle courses are important for kids. They need “recharging” with energy more than three times a day, especially if they are really active. Walking to school, physical games, wearing the backpack – all this requires energy. Furthermore, children have smaller stomachs and that’s why they should eat more often than adults. Fruits, nuts, fruity yoghurt, cut vegetables, plain biscuits, cheese and yellow cheese, wholegrain bread are a perfect choice. Prepare something together with them at home, something they like to eat, but try to avoid foods with a lot of sugar or fatty temptations that will not satiate them for long.
Another contemporary problem is eating in front of the PC. The damages from eating in front of the electronic screens are yet to be studied, but from now on it is obvious that the nervous and irregular eating impairs the organism. Overcoming this problem occurs mainly with parental intervention. In the modern communication possibilities everywhere and every time, no matter how busy they are, mothers and fathers should control the nutrition of the child at given hours. This useful habit causes the secretion of digestive juices at the same time every day and thus improves the absorption of the valuable substances.