IN Turkey, the land of kebabs and sweet lokum, expanding waistlines are the target of a new anti-obesity campaign by the government to help one million Turks slim down over the next year.
“The fight against
obesity starts now,” say publicity spots rolled out by the ministry to push
back against lifestyle changes doctors believe are bulking up the 73 million
“Modern-day life has set constraints that make us eat
faster and more without paying attention to the quality of the food we're
ingesting,” said paediatrician Murat Tuncer, a specialist in blood disorders.
But on the upside, he added, as a Mediterranean country
Turkey has all the vegetables, fruit and fish required for a healthy diet.
The ministry sounded the alarm on the problem last month.
“Thirty-five percent of the population is obese,” said Health Minister Recep
Akdag, who himself recently set an example by losing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and recommends
a walking regime of 10,000 steps a day.
With more and more Turks in treatment for
obesity-triggered diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, the government
has started pushing health and dietary tactics, along with the television and
newspaper ads, to urge Turks to eat less and work to lose weight.
Over the summer, family doctors will distribute
pedometers, so people can record their walking distance, and monitor the
progress of their overweight patients.
The campaign comes at a time when obesity — recognised
since 1997 as a disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — is
increasingly a global issue.
A person is considered overweight if his body mass index
(BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, is over 25, while a
BMI over 30 qualifies one as obese.
A study published in June by the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine, and based on 2005 figures, showed that 74 percent of the
North American population was overweight, with 56 percent in Europe, 29 percent
in Africa and 24 percent in Asia. “
In Turkey, the world's 17th biggest economy, the number of
people treated for diabetes has gone up 90 percent in 12 years, said Yunus
Yavuz, a specialist in metabolic diseases.
But there is hope.
“Obesity is a preventable disease. It's enough to slim
down to extend your life expectancy and quality of life,” Yavuz said.
And for those with extreme BMIs, surgery is always an
option. Thirty-four year-old Gulsah Bulbul recently went in for a gastrectomy
after weighing in at 147
“Whenever I entered a clothes store, they would tell me,
'there is nothing here for you,” she said after the surgery.
“I wasn't suffering from a physical problem but a
psychological one,” she added.
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