The EU appears to have overtaken the USA in the obesity league. A higher proportion of men are overweight or obese in many EU countries than in that traditional home of the heavyweight across the Atlantic.
Finland, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Malta have all now exceeded the United States figure of 67% for overweight or obese males, the International Obesity Task Force estimated. The findings coincide with the launch of the EU’s platform on obesity.
‘The time when obesity was thought to be a problem on the other side of the Atlantic has gone by,’ said Mars Di Bartolomeo, Luxembourg's Minister of Health at the launch.
The International Obesity Task Force, a global coalition of obesity scientists and research centres advising the European Union, estimated in 2003 that at least 200m of the 350m adults living in what is now the European Union may be overweight or obese. They also estimated that among the EU's 103m children, the number overweight rises by 400,000 each year.
Studies have shown that being even slightly overweight can dramatically increase the risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes. Obesity is also linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, respiratory disease, arthritis and some types of cancer.
Up to 8% of the current healthcare costs in the EU can be attributed to the effects of being overweight or obese, according to EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou. To counter the worsening trend, the EU is linking up with the food and marketing industries, consumer groups and health experts, and plans to assess national and industry efforts to counter the trend.
It is the monitoring of the food industry's efforts that makes the EU's approach to the obesity problem ‘totally novel,’ said Philip James, chairman of the task force which also advises governments around the world. ‘The industry is being challenged to demonstrate, transparently, that it is going to be part of the solution’.
(AP in Brussels)