One out of every four students in junior high school and high school is overweight, doubling their risk of diabetes, a recent survey conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) found.
The survey, carried out by the Bureau of Health Promotion between 2006 and last year, sampled 4,390 students in junior high schools and 6473 students in high schools and vocational training schools across the country.
The survey showed that in both junior high school and high school, the percentage of overweight males was generally higher than the percentage of overweight females.
In the junior high school category, 29.6 percent of male students were overweight, compared with 18.1 percent in female students. When they reached high school, the percentage of overweight males rose to 34.9, compared with 22 percent in females.
Further analysis showed that many have unhealthy eating habits. About 80 percent of junior high students consume soft drinks at least two days a week, and about 30 percent eat fast food at least twice a week.
About 40 percent exercise less than three days a week, and 20 percent watch TV for at least two hours per day.
Those who are overweight at a young age increase their risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, said Chuang Lee-ming (莊立民), chairman of the Diabetes Association of the Republic of China.
“Prevention is more effective than treatment. Since we know that being overweight is one of the risk factors for diabetes in children … we should take the problem [of overweight children] seriously,” he said.
By improving everyday habits such as eating foods low in fat and exercising properly, the risks of diabetes can be lowered, Chuang said.
The International Diabetes Federation says children and young adults have lower compliance than adults when it comes to diabetes treatment.
If the condition is left untreated, over half of children with diabetes develop complications within 15 years.
To mark World Diabetes Day on Friday, the DOH and several diabetes associations held events such as distributing comic strips about diabetes and photography contests in Taipei and Kaohsiung to raise public awareness of warning signs of diabetes.
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