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You are here: MEDICA Portal. Our Topics in 2009. Topic of the Month July: Paediatrics. Interviews.

„You Can Achieve a Lot Only by Changing Drinks”

„You Can Achieve a Lot Only by Changing Drinks”

photo: a child eating french fries

Susann Blüher is paediatric consultant at the university hospital in Leipzig. spoke to the physician about obese children, prophylaxis and how traffic lights could stem diabetes. Misses Blüher, in the past usually men above 40 years have come down with the so called adult-onset diabetes. Why is it that meanwhile more and more children and teenagers are affected?

Susann Blüher: Mainly, because they are increasingly overweight and obese. According to the current Children and Youth Survey of the Robert Koch Institute, 15 percent of the children and adolescents are overweight and about six percent are obese. That is why partly very young children already suffer from secondary complications like hypertension, articular troubles or type 2 diabetes. Why do children get even fatter today?

Blüher: Because they eat more high-fat and high-energy food than twenty years ago and do less sports. The children’s fitness level has dramatically decreased during the last ten years. A lot of primary school children are not even able to do a somersault. Only about ten percent of all school children have joined sports clubs. Instead of doing sports they spend their spare time in front of the TV, computer or playstation. Do overweight, high-fat food and too little sports necessarily cause type 2 diabetes?

Blüher: No. Researchers believe that a combination of several factors raises the risk to come down with type 2 diabetes. Environmental factors and lifestyle habits seem to be especially important. Whether an overweight or obese child falls ill or not probably depends on his genes.


photo: Susann Blüher You are in charge of TAFF since October 2008 which is a project for prevention of adiposity – and thereby also of diabetes.

Blüher: Yes, we detect overweight or obese children with the help of school physicians as well as paediatricians and offer an extensive advice to them and their families. The advice is targeted on the change of lifestyle habits. We want to raise their awareness of healthy food and physical activity. Moreover, more physical education at schools would be purposeful. Some Federal States, like Saxony, have already initiated that. In addition, nutrition science is taught for test purposes at some schools. Within a pilot project the German Institute for Child Nutrition in Dortmund has prohibited sweet drinks at schools and installed water dispensers instead. Is that also a reasonable measure?

Blüher: Yes, absolutely, because a lot of soft drinks are really fattening. Parents are often very astonished when I inform them about the fact that a big glass of coke meets one third of a primary school child’s daily calorie needs. You can already achieve stabilization in weight only by changing drinks. Therefore this is one of the most important starting points to avoid overweight and type 2 diabetes in childhood. A lot of parents are not sufficiently informed about fat and sugar contents of food. Could the currently discussed traffic light labelling help?

Blüher: Yes, I think this is a good and effective measure which has been already successful realised in Great Britain. The traffic light scheme provides at-a-glance information for the consumer on whether a food is high, medium or low in total fat, sugar or salt.

The interview was conducted by Sonja Endres.


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