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Childhood obesity in Brussels is ‘an epidemic’, says doctor

15:49 18/01/2018
Kids in Brussels are gaining weight in alarming numbers, leading the local Children's Hospital to open an obesity clinic.

Some 25% of children in Brussels are overweight, and one in seven is considered obese. The figures come from the French Community in Brussels and are included in a recent investigation by Bruzz into the problem and possible solutions. Queen Fabiola Children’s Hospital in Brussels has just opened a new clinic for weight problems.

The study carried out looked at six- and seven-year-old children. Medical professionals are particularly concerned because of the evolution of the situation: Schools are referring younger and younger children to weight management programmes.

“It’s an epidemic,” Dr Inge Gies told Bruzz. “When I started working with overweight youth 15 years ago, I mostly saw adolescents of 14 or 15 years old. Now I see little children. It’s a huge step backwards because the younger you are when you gain weight, the less chance you have of being able to lose it.”

Gies, who works at UZ Brussels, confirms that more children in Brussels are overweight than their peers in the other Belgian regions. In Flemish cities, for instance, the figure is 20%. Kids in cities, she says, have a harder time playing outside, so the problem is worse than in rural areas.

Healthy food more expensive

But Brussels’ inflated figure, says Gies, has to do with corresponding poverty figures. “Healthy food is simply more expensive. Cheaper products are often processed or of poor quality.” She also sees a phenomenon in immigrant families. “People who come from places where food was more scarce are actually content if their child is a bit round. It means that they are well fed.”

To help address the problem, the Queen Fabiola Children’s Hospital, part of the Brugmann University Hospital in Laeken, recently opened a clinic devoted to weight control. Children follow a programme that includes the help of a doctor, nutritionist, psychologist and physical therapist.

Nutritionist Mélissa Moretti works in the clinic and makes sure to get the whole family involved. “We work with parents to help them make healthy food choices,” she says. “For the kids, we teach them how to know when they’ve had enough and if there are emotions – positive or negative – that make them want to eat.”

Written by Lisa Bradshaw