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Eur J Public Health. 2014 Aug;24 Suppl 1:40-6. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku111.

Obesity and physical activity in children of immigrants.

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1 Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.
1 Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy
2 Institut Pasteur du Maroc, Casablanca, Morocco.


Childhood overweight and obesity have increased in recent decades, reaching alarming proportions. Children with a migrant background seem to be particularly at risk of developing overweight and obesity. This article provides an overview of the prevalence of overweight or obesity among North African (NA) children living in their own countries or as immigrants in Europe. The aim is to show the effect of the migration process on this trend and to discuss its possible contributing factors. Publications were identified by a systematic search of PubMed and the existing literature. Original longitudinal or cross-sectional studies on the prevalence of childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity and of physical activity among ethnic groups from North Africa compared with the native population were reviewed. The results confirmed that children of NA origin in Europe have higher levels of overweight and obesity than the native ones, especially girls. However, this trend can also be detected in urban areas of NA countries. Important factors contributing to the increase of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents are discussed, in particular the westernization of eating habits, the level of physical activity and body image perception. The review shows that factors linked to acculturation in the host society and others maintained from the country of origin come into play in determining childhood overweight and obesity among NA immigrants in Europe. The importance of health promotion targeting the groups most at risk of childhood overweight and obesity, i.e. aspects of a healthy diet and the benefits of physical activity, is underlined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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