HIPPOKRATIA 2012, 16, 3: 256-260


Risk factors of obesity in a cohort of 1001 Cypriot adults: An epidemiological study

Andreou E1,2, Hajigeorgiou PG2, Kyriakou K1, Avraam Th1, Chappa G1, Kallis P1, Lazarou Ch1, Philippou Ch1, Christoforou C3, Kokkinofta R4, Dioghenous C4,
Savva SC1, Kafatos A5, Zampelas A6, Papandreou D2

1 Cyprus Dietetic Association, Cyprus

2 Department of Life and Health Sciences, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

3 Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

4 DNA Biomedical Science Laboratory, Cyprus

5 Department of Social Medicine, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece

6 Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Technology, Agricultural University of Athens, Greece


Background and Aims: To measure the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults in the Republic of Cyprus, and to evaluate and relate possible obesity
risk factors of the adult Cypriot population.

Methods: This is an epidemiological cross-sectional study on a stratified random sample of 1001 (48.5% males-51.5% females) subjects, aged 18-80 years old. Anthropometric, biochemical, and dietary/lifestyle characteristics included in the study.

Results: The prevalence of overweight (Ow) and obesity (Ob) was 46.9% and 28.8% for males and 26% and 27% for females, respectively. Overweight and obese subjects were found to have statistically significant higher levels of Body Mass Index (p<0.001), Waist circumference (p<0.001), Total serum cholesterol (p<0.001), Low density lipoprotein (p<0.005), Glucose (p<0.007) and Triglycerides (p<0.001) compared to normal peers. In addition, Ow and Ob partici-pants consumed significantly lower levels of fruits and vegetables (p<0.001), exercised less time/d (p<0.001) and smoke more cigarettes/d (p<0.001), compared to normal subjects, respectively. In multiple regression analysis of factors associ-ated with overweight and obesity, Waist Circumference (beta: 1.132, p<0.001), Glucose (beta: 0.892, p<0.045), alcohol consumption (beta: 0.563, p<0.001), and exercise levels (beta: -0.444, p<0.001), were the most significant ones.

Conclusion: The prevalence of overweight and obesity is very high in Cypriot adults. The current study also revealed a significant positive relation of Ow and Ob with waist circumference, high blood glucose levels and increased consumption of alcohol and a negative one with decreased levels of exercise. Hippokratia 2012; 16 (3): 256-260

Keywords: obesity, overweight, Cyprus, nutrition, risk factors

Corresponding author: Eleni Andreou MD, Department of Life and Health Sciences, University of Nicosia,Nicosia, Cyprus,Tel: (357) 22-452288, Fax: (357)
22-452292, e-mail: aeleni@spidernet.com.cy

Overweight and obesity are becoming increasingly prevalent in both developed and developing countries1. The occurrence of adult obesity is causing
worldwide concern, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that the number of overweight is close to one billion internationally, whereas the number of obese individuals is close to 300 million2.

In relatively affluent countries like Cyprus, the phe-nomenon is increasingly widespread among children, as a recent local study has shown3. WHO also
estimated that the 1989/1990 levels of obesity in Cyprus were 19% and 24% for men and women, respectively, in the age range 35-64 years3.

In neighboring Greece, which shares a common eth-nic background and way of life with the majority of the population of the Republic of Cyprus, the combined percentages of overweight and obese were determined to be 72% and 74% for men and women, respectively4.

In addition, heart disease is the leading cause of deaths in adults in Greece5 which may also negatively affect Cypriot population. Well-known risk factors
such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, abdominal body fat, lack of exercise, smoking and bad dietary factors may lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD)6.

The aim of the present work is to report the results of the first comprehensive epidemiological study on over-weight and obesity in the adult Cypriot
population as well as to determine possible risk factors such as anthropo-metrical, biochemical and dietary/lifestyle.

Subjects and methods

The current study was conducted during 2005-2009,

HIPPOKRATIA 2012, 16, 3257Table 1: Population Distribution.MenWomenTotal (%)Nicosia19.7± 1.8120.7 ± 1.8540.40 ± 2.41Limassol14.9 ± 1.5114.8 ± 1.5429.70±
2.05Larnaca7.40 ± 1.197.70 ± 1.2115.10 ± 1.71Paphos4.65 ± 1.174.25 ± 1.188.90 ± 1.30Famagusta2.66 ± 0.513.24 ± 0.515.90 ± 0.71

Data presented as % of population ±SE

Table 2: Prevalence rates of overweight and obese adults.

Males (n=485) (%)Females (n=516) (%)Total (n=1001) (%)Normal117 (24.3)242 (47)359 (35.8)Overweight227 (46.9)134 (26)361 (36.0)Obese151 (28.8)140 (27)291

Chi-square test for differences between gender x2, p = 0.507

and included 1001 Cypriot adults in the age range 18 to 80y (48.5% males/51.5% females). The population of Cyprus is about 600.000 thousand people. The
figures of the subjects were the most valid at the time of the begin-ning of the study as those were adopted by the Cyprus

Ministry of Health. For the sample size the statistical er-ror was 3%. The sample was representative from all main cities and suburbs in Cyprus (Nicosia,
Limassol, Pafos, Larnaka and Famagusta). The selection of the subjects was performed randomly using the 2005 telephone direc-tory, and the total final
sample was stratified and in full compliance with the demographics of the Republic of Cyprus (table 1). Detail information of the whole proce-dure and any
possible health risks was given to the sub-jects prior to any intervention and a consent form was signed by all subjects willing to participate. All
subjects were free of any condition or disease such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension or taking any medication.

The study was also approved by the Cyprus National Bio-ethics Committee.

Body weight (Bw) was measured using a scale (Seca 700) with an accuracy of ±100 gr. Subjects were weight-ed wearing light clothes and without shoes. Height
(Ht) was measured using a seca stadiometer. BMI was cal-culated by dividing weight (kg) by height squared (m2). The categorization of the weight situation
of the subjects according to the BMI was taken as follows: BMI 20-25 normal weight, BMI 25-30 overweight, and BMI > 30 obese. Waist circumference (WC)
was measured to the nearest 0.1cm using a regular tape.

Laboratory examinations were obtained for all sub-jects (n=1001) participated in the study after an over-night fast. The fasting plasma glucose, total

(TC), triglyceride(TG), low-density lipoprotein choles-terol (LDL-C) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations were measured using
Bayer Re-agent Packs on an automated chemistry analyzer (Advia 1650 Autoanalyzer; Bayer Diagnostics, Leverkusen, Ger-many). Classification of the results
was reported based on the above three groups (Normal, Overweight Obese).

The 24-h recall technique was used to collect dietary intake information for a total of 3 days (2 weekdays and 1 weekend day). Study participants together
were asked to describe the type and amount of food consumed after a detailed explanation and guidance provided by a reg-istered dietician. To improve the
accuracy of food de-scription, food models were used to describe the portion sizes. The dietary record was analyzed using a software program which included
Greek and Cypriot food data-base. Questionnaires were used to ascertain information regarding exercise, smoking and the amount of alcohol consumed.

Statistical Analysis

We performed statistical analysis with SPSS 13.5 software. Variables which have been found non-normally distributed were log-transformed. Chi-square test
was used to detect significant differences between two in-dependent groups. Data was presented as mean ± S.E. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to
calculate the significant differences of variations in the three groups. For post hoc comparisons of means, Bonferroni test was used. Multiple regression
analysis was used to estimate the relationship of different parameters to overweight and obesity. Values with p<0.05 were considered statistically

258ANDREOU ETable 3: Anthropometric characteristics of all subjects (n=1001).Normal (n=361)Overweight (n=362)Obese (n=279)p valueAge (y)36.2 ± 11.0744.8 ±
12.643.6± 14.70.277Height (cm)163± 70164 ± 13.7162 ± 11.90.548Weight (kg)60.2± 8.376 ± 8.2*94 ± 13.6*0.001BMI (kg/m2)21.2± 1.526.3 ± 1.7*34.7± 3.2*0.001WC
(cm)74 ± 7.891 ± 8.5*105± 12*0.001

Data presented as mean± S.E Statistically significant (P <0.05)

*Statistically significant difference between normal and overweight and normal and obese group. Abbr: BMI=body mass index, WC=waist circumference

Table 4: Biochemical characteristics of participated subjects (n=1001).

Parameters**Normal (n=361)Overweight (n=362)Obese (n= 279)p valueTC (mg/dl)201 ± 41229± 44*223 ± 43*0.001HDL (mg/dl)58.4 ± 13.551± 1250 ± 11.50.188LDL
(mg/dl)90.7 ± 34.291 ± 36.2*93.9 ± 34*0.005TC/HDL (ratio)3.44.494.460.067Glucose (mg/dl)84.6 ± 22.292.3 ± 19.6*93 ± 17*0.007Triglycerides (mg/dl)78.2 ±
45.4121± 96*141± 83*0.001

Data presented as mean± S.E Statistically significant (P< 0.05)

*Statistically significant difference between normal and overweight and normal and obese group. **Adjusted for age and gender

Abbr: TC=total cholesterol, HDL=high density lipoprotein, LDL= low density lipoprotein


The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 46.9% and 28.8 % for males and 26% and 27 % for females, re-spectively (Table 2). Overweight and obesity in
combina-tion reaches to 75.2% for males and 53% for females.

Table 3 illustrates the anthropometric characteristics of N, OW and OB subjects. Obese and overweight subjects were found to have statistically significant
higher levels of

Ht, Wt, BMI and WC compared to normal ones.

Obese and overweight subjects were also found to have statistically significant increased levels of TC (p<0.001), LDL (p<0.005), TG (p<0.001) and
Glucose (p<0.007) compared to normal peers No significant dif-ference were found between the three groups and in HDL levels and TC/HDL ratio (Table 4).

Table 5 reveals dietary and lifestyle information. Ow and Ob subjects were found to consume significantly lower levels of fruits and vegetables
(p<0.001). In ad-dition, Ow and Ob groups were having significantly less physical activity levels (p<0.001) and smoke more ciga-rettes that normal
subjects (p<0.001).No statistically sig-nificantly differences were observed for red meat and fish consumption between all three groups.

In multiple regression analysis of factors associated

with overweight and obesity, WC, glucose, alcohol and exercise were the most significant ones (Table 6).


This study was the first comprehensive epidemiologi-cal study in Cyprus that tried to investigate the prevalence of Ow and Ob as well as risk factors
parameters related to that. Even thought the geographic characteristics may play an important role in the prevalence rates, however our data shows a very
high prevalence rate (Ow+Ob,75.2% M and 53% F) compared with others studies in the world.

Data from the WHO-MONICA study revealed mark-edly different prevalence patterns within Europe, ranging from 7% in Swedish men to 45% in women from
Lithu-ania7. In the United States, prevalence’s comparable to those seen in Europe today were already observed in data from the NHANES III survey,
conducted 15 years ago. In a recent NHANES survey, which includes data from 2004, prevalences in the US ranged from 29% in white men to 50% in black women8
Data from the US show that the prevalence of obesity is rising continuously, and similar trends have been reported recently for the Chi-nese population, in
which the prevalence of obesity has doubled over the past decade9. With these worldwide

HIPPOKRATIA 2012, 16, 3259Table 5: Dietary and lifestyle characteristics of subjects.Parameters**Normal (n=361)Overweight (n=362)Obese (n=279)p valueRed
meat (servings/d)0.8 ± 0.72.2 ± 0.94.4± 1.10.391Fish (servings/d)0.47 ± 0.10.5 ± 0.20.4± 0.20.437Vegetables (servings/d)4.2 ± 1.51.1 ± 1.1*0.7± 0.8
*0.003Fruits (servings/d)3.2 ± 1.61.2 ± 1.2*0.5± 0.9 *0.001Alcohol (g/d)29 ± 5.155 ± 4.9*54 ± 4.8 *0.001Smoking (cig/d)5 ± 2.712 ± 2.6*15± 3 *0.001Exercise
(Met x h/d)6 ± 0.73.8 ± 0.7*3.5 ± 0.6 *0.001

Data presented as mean± S.E Statistically significant (P <0.05)

*Statistically significant difference between normal and overweight and normal and obese group. **Adjusted for age, gender and energy intake

Table 6: Parameters associating with overweight and obesity by multiple regression analysis**

Beta95% CIp valueWC (cm)1.132(1.009-1.837)0.001*TC (mg/dl)0.876(0.746-1.193)0.887LDL (mg/dl)1.007(0.917-1.085)0.512Glucose
(mg/dl)0.892(0.643-1.542)0.045*TG (mg/dl)1.009(0.821-1.182)0.098Fruits (g)1.032(0.778-0.352)0.668Vegetables (g)0.852(0.549-1.031)0.877Alcohol
(g)0.563(0.247-0.788)0.001*Smoking (cig)0.712(0.211-0.989)0.479Exercise (Met)-0.444(-0.211-0.712)0.001*

*Statistically significant (P< 0.05) **Adjusted for age, gender and energy intake

Abbr: WC=waist circumference, TC=total cholesterol, LDL=low density lipoprotein, TG=triglycerides

trends in mind, and based on the data currently available for Europe, it would appear safe to assume that obesity in Europe is approaching, if it has not
already reached, epidemic proportions.

Overall, in the central, eastern, and southern regions of Europe, prevalence rates are higher than in the western or northern regions. This geographic
pattern can be ex-plained, at least in part, by different socioeconomic condi-tions, as well as by lifestyle and nutritional factors. The prevalence of
obesity in Spain and Italy, in particular, is high, and there has been recent discussion in the literature about urbanization and the globalization of
certain lifestyle factors that have had a negative impact on the traditional Mediterranean diet10. Greece, which shares a common eth-nic background and way
of life with the majority of the population of the Republic of Cyprus, has also very high combined percentages of overweight and obesity rates, 72% and 74%
for men and women, respectively4.

Increased visceral or abdominal adipose tissue in particu-lar has been shown to be more strongly associated with meta-

bolic and cardiovascular disease risk and a variety of chronic diseases11. (WC) is a convenient measure of abdominal adi-pose tissue11 and is unrelated to
height, correlates closely with BMI12 and total body fat13, and is associated with cardiovascu-lar disease risk factors independent of BMI14 .In our study,
the obese subjects we found to have significantly higher levels of WC compared with the normal ones.

The results of serum lipid profiles and blood pressure lev-els in our study confirmed that obesity is associated with an increased future risk of
dyslipidemia and possible metabolic syndrome. Obese subjects had significantly higher total cho-lesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, than normal
subjects. Although the obese group’s averages were within normal ranges, it is clear that obesity is associated with abnormal lipid metabolism and a higher
risk of metabolic syndrome15.

Nutrient intake of fruits, vegetables from food frequen-cy questionnaire and 3-day dietary record showed strong differences between the normal and obese
groups. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases as well as obesity16,17.


Physical activity is an important factor in the regula-tion of energy balance and prevention of the development of obesity. Sedentary lifestyles have been
associated with obesity18. In this study, the frequency and duration of ex-ercise did differ significantly between obese and normal weight subjects.
Therefore, a sedentary lifestyle does seem to be a major determinant of obesity in these subjects.

In this study, the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking episode was significantly higher in the obese group. Conflicting results exist on the
relationship between alcohol consumption and the development of obesity19,20. However, Yoon et al21, using 1998 KNHANES data, re-ported that abdominal
obesity was positively associated with alcohol consumption in Korean adults with average ages of 44.2 (men) and 45.1 (women).

Our study has several limitations: we did not take in account all dietary patterns and we did not collect infor-mation about genetic predisposition and
socioeconomic status of the subjects.

Nevertheless, we present for first time important in-formation about prevalence rates of overweight and obe-sity in a large sample of adult Cypriot
population as well anthropometric, biochemical and dietary/lifestyle data.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity is very high in Cypriot adults. The current study also revealed a significant positive relation of Ow and Ob waist
cir-cumference, high blood glucose levels and increased con-sumption of alcohol and a negative one with decreased levels of physical activity. More studies
are necessary to elucidate additional factors that possibly have an effect on Ow and Ob in Cypriot population.


The authors wish to thank all the volunteer clinical di-etitians for their efforts, namely, C. Andreou, X. Averki-ou, K. Christofi, E. Constantinou, M.
Gabrielidou, P. Koulapi, S. Kountouri, N. Michaelidou, P. Michaelidou, K. Milidoni, Jean-Philippe Ricau, A. Stavrou, C. Schou, Y. Tsokkou, M. Yiannaki, M.
Charalambous, C. Constan-tinou, C. Constantinou, M. Economou, C. Economidou, A. Erodotou, C. Koni, C. Kontos, C. Kompou, P. Lappa,

K. Michael, O. Nicola, A. Nicolaou, A .Panayidou, A. Pa-hita, V. Piki, P. Prodromos, I. Savva, N. Stylianou, and V. Xenopoulou. Finally, we wish to thank
the Cyprus Ministry of Health, the Cyprus Registration Board for

Food Scientists, Food Technologists and Dietitians, and the Cyprus Parliamentary Committee on Health for their interest in and support of this study.

Conflict of Interest:

The study was funded by research grant-HEALTH/1104/21 by Cyprus Research Promotion Foun-dation and also from external sponsors, Flora Pro-Active,

Zorpas Bakery, Lanitis Ltd., Costas Papaellinas, and Nestlé Ltd.


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