Overweight and obesity have reached “epidemic proportions” in Europe, warns WHO

A quarter of adults in Europe today are affected by obesity. In a report published on Tuesday, May 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed at the rate of overweight which has “reached epidemic proportions” on the continent.

The magnitude of the problem became apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic, since being overweight is a risk factor.

Confinements and other travel restrictions have not helped matters since they are the cause of harmful changes in eating and sports habits. “The rates of overweight and obesity” thus continue to progress on the European continent.

The prevalence of obesity is now higher there than in any other region of the world except the Americas. According to the study, the increase in body mass index (BMI) is the cause of more than 1.2 million deaths per year, or more than 13% of deaths in Europe.

The latest comprehensive data available dates back to 2016 and shows that 59% of adults and almost one in three children (29% of boys and 27% of girls) are overweight on the continent.

By way of comparison, 40% of European adults were affected in 1975. The prevalence of obesity in adults has therefore soared by 138% since then, with a notable increase of 21% between 2006 and 2016.

A “major risk factor” for cancer

A worrying reality, since being overweight “is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases, in particular cancers and cardiovascular diseases”, underlined the director of WHO Europe, Hans Kluge.

According to the study, obesity is indeed the cause of at least 13 different types of cancer and likely to be directly responsible for at least 200,000 new cases of cancer each year. A figure that should unfortunately “increase in the years to come”.

The WHO regrets that no European country is currently in a position to halt this progression by 2025. The best chance, however, lies in “policy interventions that target the environmental and commercial determinants of poor diets”.

To “reverse the epidemic”, the report thus advises to tax sugary drinks, subsidize foods good for health, limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, but also encourage physical activity throughout life. .

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