The World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Ministry recently released a joint report on healthy nutrition in Turkey. The report said the diet of the Turkish public is far from healthy and the country consumes the most salt per person in Europe.
The report is scathing, especially among Turkish women, the most obese in Europe, and also scores the worst in physical activity or lack thereof. The report also found a 22 percent obesity rate among children.
Ankara started a nationwide health campaign a few years ago amid alarming obesity rates with the population's inclination toward a sedentary lifestyle increasing. The WHO supports the campaign to increase physical activity and recommends Turkey to ban trans fats, introduce new warnings on food packages for unhealthy ingredients, place a tax on sugary beverages and implement an ad ban for unhealthy food.
The report said 34 percent of Turkish women are obese and with 15 grams per person per day, Turkey has the highest salt intake in Europe. The country also secured a top spot in countries with the highest consumption of sugary drinks and use of trans fats.
The WHO advises Turkey to decrease salt consumption by least 30 percent and predicts a reduction of brain hemorrhage risk for 165,000 people and cardiovascular disease risk for another 110,000 people if this goal is met.
In a bid to decrease sodium intake, the government announced a road map against excessive salt intake. As food regulations ensued, the salt content of cheese and bread were reduced. Two years later, a cut in the salt rate in tomato paste, a staple of Turkish cuisine, saw sodium reduced from 14 percent to 5 percent. The side effects of high salt consumption are also subject to Health Ministry campaigns to raise awareness about the issue.
The WHO report said though Turkey's move for healthy school food was important, it needed regular inspections and more incentives for healthy food sales in schools. New standards were introduced to classify food sold at schools as healthy and unhealthy while the country introduced a ban on potato chips and sugary drinks at schools.
The report cites smoking as a major risk factor contributing to diseases despite a public smoking ban in place. It is followed by obesity, malnutrition and high blood pressure.
The organization said in the report that though Turkey's campaign to encourage healthy nutrition was positive, it was also inadequate. WHO called Turkey to entirely ban trans fats in foods and to color code food for healthy and unhealthy ingredients.