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New statistics: too much and not enough

You may have missed World Digestive Health Day organised on May 29 each year by the World Gastroenterology Organisation, but more than 43,000 food bank volunteers turned up at supermarkets across Portugal on that day to collect food for distribution among 426,000 of the nation’s hungry.

Since then, other statistics have emerged from various sources showing that obesity is increasing at an alarming rate while sardines are becoming shockingly scarce.

One in three children between the ages of six and nine in Europe are either overweight or obese, according to a new report by United European Gastroenterology (UEG).The prevalence of overweight children in Europe is higher than in any other continent. The UEG’s Professor Herbert Tilg said: “The economic burden of treating adult obesity is just too great for the European region and priorities need to change quickly.”

The same report warns that an estimated 41 million children under the age of five worldwide are now obese. If current trends continue, this figure is likely to almost double by 2025.

Surprisingly, an internal report last year reckoned that within the European Union the rate of obesity in Portugal was exceeded only by that of Malta.

It may not be of huge significance, but sales of foodstuffs in Portugal’s retail sector in April increased by 1.3% on the month of March and that saw year-on-year growth surge from 3.9% in March to 5.2% in April, according to the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics (INE).

Meanwhile, average life expectancy from birth in Portugal is now just over 81 years, with men living to more than 76 and women making it to 83. A new report from the INE reveals that the average life expectancy has risen by more than two-and-a-half years in the past decade. Portuguese women live six years longer on average, but the gap is narrowing.

People are growing older, but fewer are being born. Portugal has one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates. The average number of children for every woman of child-bearing age fell from three in 1970 to one in 2013, according to the OECD.

Questions arise as to where the widely lauded Mediterranean diet has anything to do with any of this. Statistics on the subject are scant but it is said that a Mediterranean diet helps arouse sexual desires, if any help is needed that is. The two top stimulants are believed to be those Portuguese staple drinks, red wine and coffee. In moderate amounts of course.

Red wine and coffee are definitely here to stay but concerns are deepening about the future of sardines. Mackerel are by far the most caught and sold fish in Portugal nowadays. Due to fishing quotas, the 13,729 tonnes of sardines traded at fish auction last year was the lowest amount since such statistical records were first collected.

The national fishing fleet captured a total of 140,800 tonnes of fish (including 46,400 tonnes of mackerel). That was up by 21,000 tonnes on 2014. The 2015 haul fetched €261 million at auction, 5.4% higher than in 2014, but the average price of landed fish, €1.81 per kg, was the lowest since 2012.

The average price of sardines at auction (€2.19 per kg) was the highest in the last 20 years. Further quota cuts this year are expected to send sardine prices soaring further.

Bom apetite!

By Len Por

Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: