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Okinawa’s kids identified as being more overweight

Date Posted: 2004-11-26

Japanese children are overeating, and it is showing in their waistline. Okinawa’s kids are in even worse shape.

A weekend symposium by the Naha City School Lunch Association revealed something is radically out of kilter with Okinawa childrens’ diets. A new study shows that 15% of Okinawa children are overweight, compared to 10% of mainland Japanese youngsters. It’s a big problem, says Association Chairman Mineko Agarie.

“Let’s think about children’s food and health”, Agarie says. “We need to discuss this real healthy foods issue, and then teach the children about the good life.” Agarie, the Okinawa Prefecture Nutrition vice chairman, says “Okinawan longevity in life is now in a crisis situation because the children’s food life has gone so wrong.” Agarie notes that 15% of kids do not eat breakfast, and that 75% of the youngsters do not eat together with their parents. In some cases, that number falls to only 3%. Thirty years ago, says the nutritionist, every family ate together, and they always ate breakfast too.

Now, she says, parents are busy and have no time to spend with their children. Children go to fast food shops, and that’s not good food.

The net result, says Parent Teacher Association Chairman Eiko Kanahira, is that “Parents have to think about their time, that they should take care of children and spend time together talking to their children too.”

Even though it’s often impossible for families to eat dinner together, Kanahira emphasizes that “the basics of food life comes from the family at home. There are all kinds of situations for families, so at least breakfast should be together.”

The fat is killing Okinawans, they say. Four years ago Okinawa men had the longest life expectancy in Japan. Today, Okinawa has fallen to 27th out of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

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