As many as a quarter of children in grades one and seven are overweight, the Health Ministry’s School Health Services estimates.
No details were given on how many of these are considered obese.
Twenty percent of children in the first grade and 30% of those in seventh grade are overweight. These rates are getting closer to those in the US. Some 16.9% of US children and adolescents aged two to 19 are obese.
The Health Ministry provided the statistics as part of the information given for World Diabetes Day on Friday.
A total of 435,000 Israelis have been diagnosed with diabetes, most of them with type 2, resulting in most cases from poor lifestyles, improper diet and lack of exercise.
An additional 200,000 have not yet been diagnosed but are believed to have diabetes or to have pre-diabetes, which can be reversible.
In 1990, there were “only” 200,000 diabetics in the country.
The chronic illness, if not kept in check, can result in harm to the heart, brain, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and limbs. It is a leading cause of death in the Western world, including Israel.
The sedentary Western life includes an improper diet with large amounts of sugar, salt, unhealthful fats and simple carbohydrates. This diet is triggering diabetes at younger ages than ever before, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the Knesset’s Children’s Rights Committee had a session Thursday on nutritional security and found that guidelines on food in schools, which are determined by the Health Ministry, are not properly enforced by the Education Ministry.
The committee was told that the Health Ministry will, within three months, issue a directive that will require the school catering companies to supervise and control food prepared for children in schools.
The Health Ministry itself does and will not do the supervising.
The Knesset committee said its “sorry that its demand that the Health Ministry supervise meals provided in schools” has been ignored due to “opposition by the government.”
The committee called on the Education Ministry to consider the establishment of absolute separation between the contractor who caters school meals and supervision of what is given to children to eat.
The committee will, at least, ask the Health Ministry to take samples of the food in schools to determine is nutritional and hygienic levels.
The Knesset committee said it was also sorry to hear that the hygienic condition of drinking fountains in schools has not been checked, even though it made such a request.
If children put their mouths directly on the metal parts from which the water is released, they can cause infection to spread, it said.
The committee also regretted that the Health Ministry has not finished setting mandatory standards for school meals for children suffering from special allergies – as a result they do not get suitable hot meals.