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Chris Fearne talks to Gourmet Today about curing the obesity epidemic

Obesity is a disease and the only way to end obesity-related deaths is to find a cure. However, until that day comes we need to work on prevention. This is what Chris Fearne, parliamentary secretary for health, told Gourmet Today. 

Parliamentary secretary for Health Chris Fearne and Gourmet Today editor Rachel Zammit Cutajar (Photo: Ray Attard)
Parliamentary secretary for Health Chris Fearne and Gourmet Today editor Rachel Zammit Cutajar (Photo: Ray Attard)
“Ultimately, what we need to do to fight obesity, and the diseases related to it, is to find a cure,” Fearne said. He said that today doctor’s place a large amount of blame for obesity on the patient themselves and that telling and obese person suffering from high blood pressure to simply lose weight doesn’t work in the majority of cases.

Though there are some people that lose weight and keep and it off – these tend to be the more motivated of the group – for most people there is some initial weight loss followed by a regain of weight.

“You wouldn’t tell someone suffering from cancer to take responsibility for their disease and just fix it. We need to be more understanding of the limitations facing these people and the real reasons they cannot keep the weight off until we find a cure,” Fearne said.

Fearne believe that a cure for obesity isn’t as fantastical as it sounds. Diseases like tuberculosis (TB) killed patients less that 100 years ago. Today deaths from TB in the western world are all but unheard of. However, this magic cure is not yet a reality and until then we need to work on prevention.

The cause of obesity is not exactly baffling. Too much food and not enough exercise have put Malta’s obesity rates at the top end of the scale of stats collected in the west, however a World Health Organisation (WHO) prediction for 2025 puts Malta’s obesity rates at the same levels they are today. With obesity rates climbing in other western countries, Fearne says that government initiatives have helped to put Malta at the forefront of obesity control.

Fearne said that this is the result of a number of campaigns run by the government over the last year. Research has shown that breastfeeding reduces the tendency towards obesity thus their Breast Is Best campaign, which was launched in 2013. The removal of sugary foodstuffs from school tuck shops and the introduction of the Kids On The Move campaign ensures that kids are eating better and learning the importance of moving around, which they will then take with them into their adult life.

“Some schools have even gone as far as organising food prep classes to motivate the kids to eat better and the response has been great. People want to look after their healthy better, they just need a little bit of help getting there. Awareness and small lifestyle changes is what will keep this epidemic under control until we find a cure.”

Fearne emphasised the importance of following a Mediterranean diet. “We live in the heart of the Mediterranean and yet we do not really follow a Mediterranean diet.” What this involves is giving priority to fresh produce, fish, whole grains, and healthy fats with less of an emphasis on meats and dairy and consuming products.

Fearne insists that it is important to look at this as a sustainable lifestyle and not just as a temporary diet to get rid of a few kilos. Eating the odd pastry every now and then shouldn’t make you feel that everything is lost. Keep some – limited – treats in your diet but try to make sure that only 10% of your daily intake of calories comes from processed sugars.

“One day this will no longer be a problem and there will be a cure and treating obesity will not be as expensive as treating the diseases that result from obesity but until then we need to keep up the work involved in prevention.” 

Healthy lunchboxes

Gourmet Today TV and The Ministry of Health have teamed up to provide some easy recipes that are easy to prepare and will keep in your kid’s lunchbox until lunchtime. Though these ideas were mainly aimed at kids, it would be a lie to say that the Gourmet staff haven’t been seen snacking on these at the office! 

Ricotta and apple wholegrain pitas

By Sean Gravina

Ingredients
  • Wholegrain pitas
  • 1 apple
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp ricotta
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey


Method
  1. Slice the apple and toss in lemon juice to prevent from going brown.
  2. Mix the ricotta, cinnamon and honey together.
  3. Stuff the wholewheat pitas with the ricotta mixture and apple slices.


This recipe first appeared on Gourmet Today TV, aired on 15 January, 2016.

Coconut energy balls

By Michael Diacono

Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup coconut
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds


Method
  1. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until sticky.
  2. Roll into balls and roll in more dedicated coconut.


This recipe first appeared on Gourmet Today TV, aired on TVM on 18 December, 2018.

Apple crisps

By Sean Gravina

Ingredients
  • 2 gala apples
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt


Method
  • Preheat oven to 120°C.
  • Carefully, slice the apple as finely as possible.
  • Mix cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Add apples and toss.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  • Spray or grease the surface. 
  • Set apple pieces in a single layer on baking sheets. Do not let them overlap.
  • Bake for one hour until golden brown and very thin. Rotate pan halfway through.
  • Cool 5 minutes.


This recipe first appeared on Gourmet Today TV, aired on TVM on 29 January, 2016. 

 

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