Report: Strictly-Orthodox communities suffer higher levels of obesity
Teams from two leading universities — Leeds in the UK and Israel’s Bar-Ilan — have carried out an unusual study of strictly-Orthodox communities and their dietary routines. Their conclusion? Such communities experience higher levels of obesity, anaemia and diabetes.
The study was conducted among 20 leaders of the Gur and Chabad communities in Israel, responding to questions about their food lifestyles.
One of the central problems, it emerged, was that some interviewees believed that so-called “healthy” food was a form of “body-worshipping, at the cost of worshipping the soul”.
Get The Jewish News Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up
The researchers found particular problems because of the size of some of the strictly-Orthodox families, where older girls are sometimes responsible for feeding the younger children, and both lower incomes and dietary ignorance cause a less than ideal nutritional food intake.
There were problems observed in yeshivot, where one educator noted: “The nutritional quality of meals is especially poor, consisting of refined carbohydrates, sugars and a small quantity of fresh vegetables…” A school psychologist, who is also a member of one of the two communities surveyed, said: “Sweets in the strictly-Orthodox communities are an ‘issue’ as [the boys] come with pockets full of sweets from the synagogue”.
Now the researchers — who say their findings are applicable to strictly Orthodox communities worldwide — are designing a programme to teach young couples about healthy food lifestyles before they start having children.