Childhood Obesity and Adherence in the Mediterranean Diet

Introduction: Higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been shown to protect against obesity in adults, but the evidence remains unclear in children and adolescents. Objective: The purpose of the study is to assess the BMI of children aged 5–16 years in relation to the degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Material and Method: The sample of the study consisted of 500 children aged 5 to 16 years old who were hospitalized at the Athens General Pediatric Hospital "Agia Sofia". Data collection was performed using the KIDMED TEST questionnaire (Mediterranean Diet Quality Index), which completed from parents and children for study purposes. All statistical analyses were performed using the SPSS statistical package version 22 and the t-test, Chi square test, anova and pearson correlation tests were used. Statistical significance level was set at ≤5%. Results: Most of the 500 children 58.6% were girls aged 5–16 years (10.5±3.3). A percentage of 9.6% of children were underweight, 64.2% of normal weight, 17.2% overweight and 9% obese. Boys had higher BMI, p=0.036. There was not a statistically significant correlation between the degree of adherence to the Mediterranean diet (KIDMED) and BMI of children,(p=0.539). Only the 21.6% had high adherence to the KIDMED. There was also found a positive correlation between child BMI and (i) parental BMI (p<0.001), (ii) hours playing electronic games, TV and the Internet (p<0.001) and negative correlation with monthly family income (p=0.003), as well as hours of physical activity and monthly family income (p=0.008). Furthermore there was a negative correlation between the child BMI and the maternal (p<0.001) or the paternal (p=0.001) educational attainment. Finally, a positive correlation of the KIDMED score with the educational attainment of parents (p<0.001) was found. Conclusion: Prevalence of child obesity is high and factors related to childhood obesity are family income, parental education, lack of exercise and poor adherence to the Mediterranean diet. In order to eliminate child obesity, parents, schools, social workers and health care providers should educate children on healthy food choices and encourage them to regular physical activity.