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As a nation that is proud of its food, Italy is currently up in arms after one minister claimed that its traditional 2 hour ‘sit down’ lunch breaks are liable to lead to weight gain.Whilst many of it's European neighbours tend to have a short lunch, with a snack, much of the Italian population still takes time out to frequent “tavola caldas” (buffet style restaurants) for 2 hour long meals. This will often consist of pasta, meats, coffees and fruits.
Cabinet Minister, Gianfranco Rotondi said the tradition leaves people more vulnerable to diseases like obesity and subsequent conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancers. The minister’s comments made the front pages of a number of tabloids worldwide and have certainly caused a fair amount of debate.
Figures gathered by Italian food producers association Coldiretti appear to show that 44% of the Italian population eat out in restaurants whilst a further 36% eat in canteens with just 1 in 5 taking healthy packed lunches to work.
Given the fact that Obesity is fast becoming a global concern, the figures are worrying. The number of children who are being diagnosed with the condition before school age is on a steady rise and if attitudes toward food remain as they are, this number will only increase.
However, the comments have caused a stir, particularly amongst unions. Michelle Gentile of the largest union in Italy (CGIL) deems the minister’s words to be “an attack on workers’ rights” although Rotondi has since clarified that he has never planned to abolish lunch breaks.
With attitudes and perceptions surrounding obesity changing, more and more people are simply ‘accepting’ the condition. Cultures may perhaps need to adapt in order to tackle the pandemic head on. There are a number of proven medications such as Xenical and Reductil although you are advised to seek the advice of a trained doctor before committing to any treatment.