There is an epidemic of obesity in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. According to a new report, obese people are responsible for 200,000 cases of cancer every year in the region and more than 1.2 million deaths.
This is the first time the WHO has conducted a study of this type in 15 years and it claims that overweight and obesity rates have hit dangerous levels and are still escalating. In its report, the WHO stated there were no countries in the region on track to meet the WHO global noncommunicable disease (NCD) target of halting the rise in obesity by 2025, as recommended by the WHO.
The European Union reports that 59% of adults and 8% of children are overweight or obese, and one in three children of school age is obese or overweight in that region. As reported by the European Congress on Obesity this year, the prevalence of obesity in Europe is higher than anywhere else in the world, except for the Americas, which is the highest in the world.
“Unfortunately, over the past few decades, obesity and overweight prevalence have steadily increased within the WHO European region, and no member state is on track to reach the goal of halting the rise in obesity by the year 2025 as intended,” said the report, which summarized the situation.
There is a long list of conditions linked to obesity, including musculoskeletal disorders, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and at least 13 different cancers. Fat was a leading cause of premature death and disability, according to the report.
The report says obesity is directly responsible for at least 200,000 new cancer cases every year in the WHO European region, and that number is projected to increase over the next few decades. According to some studies conducted within the region, obesity is predicted to overtake smoking as the major risk factor contributing to preventable cancer in some countries.
Among all the countries in the Europe region, the UK is ranked fourth in terms of the number of overweight and obese adults as compared with Israel, Malta and Turkey, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. There is no doubt that the UK is third in the world regarding obesity rates, after Turkey and Malta.
The term obesity is used to describe a condition in which a person is very overweight. Being overweight is having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9, while obesity is having a BMI of 30 or higher. Overweight or obesity was more common among European men overall, although obesity was more prevalent among European women (24% versus 22%).
There seems to be a disproportionate effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on people living with obesity, as indicated by the published report. Currently, there has been an unfavourable shift in how food is consumed and how people are physically active, which will have a lasting impact on people’s health for many years to come and will require significant effort to reverse.
According to the report, obesity is caused by various factors, including unhealthy eating habits, physical inactivity, and a lack of exercise. During the study, the authors pointed out that 'environmental factors unique to life in modern Europe's highly digitalised society contribute to obesity problems.' For example, online marketing of unhealthy foods to children and the constant availability of online sedentary games contribute to obesity.
There is still hope that the obesity epidemic in Europe can be reversed, according to Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe. To change the trajectory of obesity in the region, we need to create a more enabling environment, encourages investment and innovation in health, and develops robust and resilient health systems.
It is recommended in the report that high-level political commitment be made to the fight against obesity alongside measures such as sugar taxes on sugary drinks and subsidies on healthy food in order to combat obesity. According to the report, there must be an end to the marketing of unhealthy food to children.