MILAN -- A new study shows that Italy's long economic crisis is having an impact on nutritional health in the country synonymous with the Mediterranean diet.

The Economist Intelligence Unit in an index presented Wednesday ranked Italy as eighth among 12 Mediterranean countries surveyed for nutritional health.

That was largely due to childhood obesity, with 21 per cent of Italian children ages 6 to 10 at risk. Other factors include weak nutritional education and growing popularity of fast food.

The survey, funded by the Barilla Foundation, said a likely factor in the unexpectedly low ranking was the increase in the percentage of people living in poverty since the 2008-9 financial crisis: 29 per cent compared with 14 per cent in first-placed France.