Turkey opened its first child obesity center in the western city of İzmir to battle the disturbing phenomenon and provide advice and treatment for at-risk children.
Speaking at the opening ceremony yesterday, Deputy Health Minister Emine Alp Meşe said that the center will educate children against obesity.
"We have to teach our children about measures for a healthy body, physical activities, sleeping times, conscious use of time spent on computers and watching TV," Meşe said.
Nearly three in every four people in Turkey are inactive and overweight, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report sent to the Turkish Parliament revealed. It showed that Turkish people on average exercise less than 150 minutes a week, a threshold set by WHO, and the number of obese people has been rising.
The report also indicated that obesity has been one of the most widespread diseases in Turkey, costing the country more than TL 70 million to treat diseases directly related to obesity. Meşe said obesity increased more than tenfold in the past four decades among people between the ages of five and 19 and this contributed to a wide variety of chronic diseases and early deaths.
Obesity is a global health problem and most of the overweight and obese children live in the developing world. A change in eating habits and an inactive lifestyle are seen as the main causes for the boom in obesity cases.
Children consume large amounts of sugar, fat and high-calorie foods, and rarely choose vitamin and mineral-rich foods along with low calorie products.
Weight problems are seen in parallel with an increase in socioeconomic and sociocultural standards. Another cause of overweight children is an inactive lifestyle.
Addiction to technology and devices that encourage sitting for long periods of time such as on computers, tablet PCs, cellphones and TVs are leading to unhealthy children.
Childhood obesity also poses a risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, which is known as an adolescent illness, as well as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. It may also result in polycystic ovarian syndrome in girls.