According to the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index Spain is the healthiest country in the world (out of 169 countries). The index grades nations based on variables including life expectancy while imposing penalties on risks such as tobacco use and obesity. It also takes into consideration environmental factors including access to clean water and sanitation.

However, many recent statistics on healthy eating and smoking habits seem to disagree with this study.

The demise of the ‘Mediterranean diet’?

“Nowhere do people eat as well as they do in Spain.” If that sounds like a cliché, it’s because it is. Spain produces fine olive oil, it is one of Europe’s biggest producers of fruit and vegetables, and traditional dishes are rich in rice and pulses. But despite all of this, Spaniards eat just as badly as people do in other countries. While there is a lot of boasting about the Mediterranean diet, the truth is that less than half of the country follows it. According to the Mediterranean Diet Foundation, only 45% of Spaniards have a ‘Mediterranean diet’.

Vegetable consumption down 40%

Spaniards are eating fewer vegetables than they did 54 years ago. A study conducted by the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN) revealed that they consume approximately 269 grams of vegetables a day, which equates to 1.3 daily servings. This is 40% less than what was consumed in 1964. While fruit consumption has increased in the past few years to 1.5 daily servings, it still has not reached the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Packing on extra kilos

The undeniable proof that we have abandoned the Mediterranean diet was presented in a 2017 National Health Survey, which revealed that 17% of Spain’s adult population is obese (Body Mass Index equal to or above 30). This figure rises to 62.5% for men and 46.8% for women if we take into account people who are overweight (BMI equal to or above 25). At the rate that we’re going, 27 million Spaniards will be overweight by 2030, according to a study carried out by Mar de Barcelona hospital. More about the obesity crisis.

According to the WHO, 40% of Spanish children are obese

What’s more, a study by the Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity (SEENO) found that 82.2% of people who are obese are not aware of it. People must understand the problem if they are to address it. It is also hard for Spaniards to recognize that their children have a problem, even though they are among the most overweight in Europe. According to the WHO, 40% of Spanish children are obese compared to 10% in countries without the Mediterranean diet, such as Denmark, Norway, Ireland or Latvia. Only 30% eat fruit every day and only 10% eat vegetables – which is the lowest figure in Europe, despite the fact that Spain is a top producer of fresh vegetables.

A rise in smoking…

The number of smokers in Spain has crept up to the levels recorded before the anti-tobacco law was introduced in 2005. According to the drug-consumption survey EDADES, carried out by the Health Ministry, 34% of Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 64 smoke on a daily basis. In 2005, before the law came into effect, the rate was 32.8%.

“The data is alarming”– REGINA DALMAU, NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR TOBACCO PREVENTION

The number of young smokers has risen five percentage points in the past two years.

Other drug consumption

Alcohol remains the most popular drug in Spain with consumption at 75.2%. It is followed by tobacco (40.9%), sedatives (11.1%) and cannabis (11%). At the end of the list are cocaine (2.2%), ecstasy (0.6%), hallucinogens (0.4%), amphetamines (0.5%) and heroin (0.15).

Europe’s biggest coke users?

More than 13 percent of Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 34 have tried cocaine at least once in their lifetime, an EU drugs report from 2012 states.

That’s the highest figure for the EU: the average is 6.3 percent.

Spain’s youth are also the most habitual coke snorters in Europe, with 4.4 percent admitting they’ve consumed the drug in the last year and 2 percent in the last month.

Change is possible!

So, despite favourable weather and a bountiful supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, the habits of people living in Spain are not conducive to a healthy life. However, with small daily changes, everyone can improve their future selves and work towards becoming a healthier population.

You can keep your health and weight in check with Medcare. Through blood tests and dietary advice with our doctor and nurse team you can find out if you have high cholesterol, any risk of diabetes, heart or liver conditions and thyroid problems. If any of these conditions are showing in the results, a treatment plan can be started and you can move down the road to a healthier you!

To make an appointment with the doctor or nurse please call 966 860 258 or email doctors@medcarespain.com

More about Medcare’s ‘Do Something’ campaign.

Sources: El Pais