Europe's obesity crisis expands to 'enormous proportions' (Update)

May 5, 2015
Credit: Peter Häger/Public Domain

Europe faces an obesity crisis of "enormous proportions" as unhealthy diets and physical inactivity inflate waistlines and health costs, the World Health Organization claimed Wednesday.

Nearly all adults in Ireland—one of Europe's fattest nations—will be overweight by 2030, the European Congress on Obesity in Prague was told.

"Even in countries with a traditionally lower prevalence of obesity such as Sweden, obesity rates are predicted to rise sharply," said a statement issued by congress organisers.

"The data highlight a serious problem for many countries."

The ballooning burden of overweight and obesity, a preventable condition mainly caused by lifestyle factors, is a growing cause of disease and disability around the world.

According to WHO statistics, obesity has more than doubled since 1980, with up to 600 million adults affected in 2014.

More than 1.9 billion people, 39 percent of all adults in the world, were overweight.

Among children younger than five, 42 million were overweight or obese in 2013, according to the WHO, which has as a stated goal to halt the rise in obesity by 2025.

More of the world's population now lives in countries where weight and obesity kills more people than famine.

People are classified overweight if they have a BMI (body weight index, a ratio of weight to height) of 25 and higher, and obese from a BMI of 30.

The new research underlines that Europe "will face an obesity crisis of enormous proportions by 2030," said the research, which covered 53 countries in the WHO's Europe region.

On current trends, some 89 percent of Irish men are likely to be overweight by 2030, and 48 percent obese—up from 74 percent overweight and 26 percent obese in 2010.

Of Irish women, 85 percent are likely to be overweight and 57 percent obese by 2030, up from 57 percent and 23 percent respectively.

Over a quarter of Swedish men and 22 percent of women will be obese by 2030, up from 14 and 12 percent in 2010.

In the UK, "one third (33 percent) of women are forecast to be obese in 2030, compared with over one quarter (26 percent) in 2010," the congress press statement said.

Sixty-four percent of UK women and 74 percent of men will be overweight in 2030.

In Greece, the proportion of obese men and women will more than double from 20 percent to about 40 percent, while in Spain obesity in women is set to rise from 16 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2030, and in men from 19 percent to 36 percent.

But Joao Breda, of the WHO's regional office for Europe, stressed Wednesday that "action taken today can prevent these predictions from becoming reality", with a few countries already showing a flattening trend.

The Dutch are among the thinnest in Europe, and the Netherlands one of few countries with a downward obesity projection.

About 49 percent of men will be overweight and eight percent obese by 2030—down from 54 percent and 10 percent in 2010.

For women, overweight rates are projected to drop from 44 to 43 percent, and obesity from 13 to nine percent, said the statement.

Last November, a study in The Lancet Oncology said excess weight and obesity is now causing nearly half a million new cancer cases in adults every year.

Overweight people are more prone to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and kidney disease.

Excess body weight is estimated to have caused 3.4 million deaths in 2010, and previous research has warned that an unabated rise in obesity could start eating away at life expectancy.

A study last November by the McKinsey Global Institute said obesity was costing the global economy $2 trillion (1.8 trillion euros) in healthcare and lost productivity—or 2.8 percent of global GDP.

Explore further: Nearly 30% of world population is overweight: study

Related Stories

Nearly 30% of world population is overweight: study

November 20, 2014
More than 2.1 billion people globally—or nearly 30 percent of the world's population—are now overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise further by 2030, according to a study published Thursday.

Group: 39 US states' obesity to pass 50 percent

September 18, 2012
(AP)—A group campaigning against obesity predicts that more than half the people in 39 U.S. states will be obese—not merely overweight, but obese—by 2030.

Why do obese men get bariatric surgery far less than women?

April 29, 2015
A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has identified demographic, socioeconomic and cultural factors that contribute to a major gender disparity among U.S. men and women ...

Financial crisis spurred obesity: OECD

May 27, 2014
The 2008 financial crisis spurred obesity's spread in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's 34 member countries—most of whose inhabitants are overweight, an OECD report said Tuesday.

Report: Global obesity costs hits $2 trillion

November 20, 2014
The global cost of obesity has risen to $2 trillion annually—nearly as much as smoking or the combined impact of armed violence, war and terrorism, according to a new report released Thursday.

Two out of three adults in England overweight or obese

February 4, 2014
More than 60 percent of adults in England are overweight or obese, according to new figures by the national public health agency.

Recommended for you

Study finds behavioral changes insufficient at preventing early childhood obesity

August 7, 2018
Young children and their families in poor communities were able to make some achievable and sustainable behavioral changes during the longest and largest obesity prevention intervention, but, in the end, the results were ...

Responsive parenting intervention results in lower BMIs through age three

August 7, 2018
An intervention designed to promote healthy growth, which taught first-time moms how to respond with age-appropriate responses to their babies' needs, resulted in children having lower body mass indexes (BMIs) when they were ...

Measure of belly fat in older adults is linked with cognitive impairment

August 1, 2018
A new study using data from over 5,000 individuals has found that a measure of belly fat (waist:hip ratio) was associated with reduced cognitive function in older Irish adults (>60 years of age). These findings have significant ...

How can you avoid regaining those lost kilos?

July 23, 2018
The hardest part about losing weight is maintaining it. Many people manage to lose weight, but in time the kilos can slowly come back.

Food for thought: How the brain reacts to food may be linked to overeating

July 19, 2018
The reason why some people find it so hard to resist finishing an entire bag of chips or bowl of candy may lie with how their brain responds to food rewards, leaving them more vulnerable to overeating.

Children are less likely to be obese if mothers stick to a healthy lifestyle

July 4, 2018
Children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle have a substantially lower risk of developing obesity than children of mothers who don't make healthy lifestyle choices, finds a study published in The BMJ.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.