Diabetes expert: IDF soldiers gain weight during their service

“This is a serious epidemic that is getting worse."

January 13, 2016 04:14
2 minute read.
SWEARING-in ceremony

A SWEARING-in ceremony for new recruits of the Paratroopers Brigade in January, 2014. Within three battalions of the Paratroopers, there are 300 lone soldiers.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)


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The Israel Defense Forces turns young men and women soldiers into more skilled individuals during their service but, unfortunately, it also makes many of them overweight.

The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee was told on Tuesday that 70 percent of soldiers gain weight during their military service, and 22% suffer from being overweight.

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In a discussion about the conditions of overweight, obesity and diabetes, Prof. Itamar Raz – president of the Israel Diabetes Association and the most senior expert on the disease at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem – said there are 600,000 diabetics in the country and an equal number of Israelis with pre-diabetes – high blood sugar levels that will lead to the disease unless they change their diet and begin to exercise.

Many are unaware of the condition.

“This is a serious epidemic that is getting worse. Diabetes is the central reason for hospitalization, blindness, amputation of the feet and legs and kidney dialysis,” Raz said.

According to Billie Cohen, head of the nutrition department of Maccabi Health Services, 7% of pre-diabetics become fully fledged diabetics each year. “We have set a target to halt this deterioration,” she said.

Health Ministry acting associate director-general Prof. Arnon Afek announced that his office is “building a national program to fight diabetes that will attack the disease from all aspects, beginning with ways of preventing it through treatment of the most serious and other cases.

Dr. Ronit Endevelt, head of the ministry’s nutrition department, said the ministry is leading a national program to reduce sodium in the Israeli diet.

“So far, we have managed to reduce gradually the salt content in [processed] food by 20% without anyone being aware of it. The level of sodium in cottage cheese, for example, has gone down by 30%,” she said.

Addressing overweightness in children, Meir Medical Center, Kfar Saba, deputy director-general Prof. Dan Nemet said a sixyear- old child who weighs significantly more than normal for his age has a 70% risk of remaining fat for the rest of his life.

“I meet some first graders who weigh 80 kilos and children in sixth grade who weigh 150 kilos! The difference between a fat child and a thin one is just 200 excess calories consumed each day and some exercise,” he said. “That means that to eat a little less and [have a healthful lifestyle] is all you need. It’s incredible how the modern world has not been able to overcome 200 daily calories.”

The committee’s chairman, Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf said it would coordinate the various programs in the fight against obesity and diabetes and push forward legislation, including subsidizing wholewheat bread [which is more nutritious and has a lower glycemic index] instead of white bread.

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