In a new study, researchers found that Europeans are overweight and obesity rates are on the rise, undermining their reputation as a region with a thinner average population than the United States.
The United Kingdom and Turkey have the highest rates of obesity in Europe, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday. After finding that 59% of European adults had a high body-mass index in 2016, the United Nations declared an "obesity epidemic."
Approximately 1.2 million deaths and disabilities are caused by obesity in Europe each year, which accounts for 13% of death and disability. In the next decade, obesity is expected to surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancers in every region, the WHO's report showed.
In 2017 and 2018, almost 74% of U.S. adults were overweight or obese. According to the WHO, obesity rates are higher than anywhere in the Americas.
Throughout the pandemic, unhealthy food consumption has increased, which is expected to exacerbate the problem. The report shows nearly one in three European children has a high body mass index. Governments are urged to take action to combat obesity, according to the WHO.
"The WHO's European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases needs to pay more attention to this issue at the highest level," said Kremlin Wickramasinghe, acting head of the agency. "We hope this report will mark the beginning of a decade of drive and innovation for the industry."
In the ten years before 2016, obesity prevalence estimates rose 21%, and since 1975, they have more than doubled. A recent report found that European men are more likely to be overweight than women, but obese men are more likely to be overweight.
More medical treatments are being offered by the pharmaceutical industry for obesity in recent years. Novo Nordisk A/S marketed Wegovy in 2021, which became the first weight-loss treatment to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration since 2005. Over two-thirds of the global market for branded obesity prescription drugs is now controlled by Denmark's company. The value of new shares has increased by 73% over the past year.
Clinical data released last week showed that Eli Lilly & Co.'s obesity drug tirzepatide helped patients lose about 21% of their body weight at the highest dose tested.