Emerging Health Paradox in Greece

By: Michael Engle

Currently, the national economy is not the only crisis for the country of Greece.  In a stunning and ironic development, more than 65% of Greek citizens are obese--the highest percentage of any EU member country. This growing problem in Greece is especially disappointing, when one considers that Greece is the cradle of the Mediterranean diet.  For centuries, the Greek lifestyle has been regarded as one of the healthiest diets, with its plethora of whole grains, olive oil, herbs and spices, and seafood, coupled with its societal aversion to (but not banishment of) red meat and salt. It is even recommended at times in order to lose or maintain ideal weight. Hence, the alarming paradox.

Predictably, Western lifestyles and influences can be blamed, as the Mediterranean region is poised to consume more unhealthy fats and sweets than ever.  As a result of these nontraditional diet practices and lower levels of physical activity, Greeks are increasingly prone to previously unprecedented maladies, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Apparently after countless generations of following the country's famous Mediterranean diet, the Greeks' divergence from their culinary tradition has yielded significant consequences.  Hopefully, as Greece works to restore its economy, the country can recommit to smarter, healthier, and, by default, more traditional and local eating habits in order to combat this new national dilemma as well.

Photo:  Katherine Martinelli

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