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Adolescent obesity

Adolescents in southern Europe are more obese

Adolescents in southern Europe are less fit in terms of cardiorespiratory capacity

Adolescents in southern Europe are more obese and present higher levels of total and abdominal fat than adolescents from the centre-north of Europe, according to researchers from the University of Granada Department of Medical Physiology, Spain, in collaboration with 25 other European research groups.

The study, which compared the level of physical fitness of adolescents living in Mediterranean countries (Spain, Italy and Greece) with adolescents from the centre and north of Europe, also reported that adolescents in southern Europe are less fit in terms of cardiorespiratory capacity, strength and speed-agility than their central-northern European peers. The results have been published in the journal Pediatrics.

"These results indicate the importance on a population-wide level of participating in physical activity in order to have a healthy level of fitness," said principal author, Dr Francisco B Ortega from the Department of Physical and Sports Education at the University of Granada. "However, we didn't find that this was due to doing less physical activity, or to diet, or to the genetic markers that we studied, so we can't draw conclusions about why obesity is more prevalent.”

The study included a total of 3,528 adolescents from southern Europe (four cities in Spain, Italy and Greece) and central-northern Europe (six cities). All of them underwent a series of tests to measure their physical fitness, total and abdominal fat, and cardioembolic risk.

Southern European adolescents were also found to be participating less in physical activity and had more sedentary activities than those from northern Europe which, to a large extent, explains their lower level of fitness.

The study also analysed cardiovascular risk markers like cholesterol or blood pressure but found no consistent differences between southern and central-northern European adolescents.

The authors concluded that fitness and fatness levels indicate that urban adolescents from the south are less healthy than those from central-northern Europe; although the differences in physical activity could explain the differences in health-related fitness components they do not explain the differences in obesity.

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