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The WHO said on Tuesday that “epidemic” obesity and obesity are linked to more than 1.2 million deaths annually across Europe, and calls for rapid political change to reverse the dangerous trend.
Obesity in the region has increased by 138 percent in the last five decades, the World Health Organization said in a new report, and is linked to a number of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Nearly a quarter of adults are now overweight in Europe, higher than in any other region except America, the WHO said.
“Obesity and obesity have reached epidemic proportions throughout the region and are still escalating,” the health agency’s European office said.
“Elevated body mass index is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease,” WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge was quoted as saying in the report.
Obesity causes at least 13 different types of cancer and is likely responsible for at least 200,000 new cases of cancer a year, it says.
“This number will increase further in the coming years,” the organization said in the new report.
Obesity and obesity are estimated to cause more than 1.2 million deaths a year, accounting for more than 13 percent of deaths in the region, it added.
The latest comprehensive data available, from 2016, show that 59 percent of adults and almost every third child – 29 percent of boys and 27 percent of girls – are overweight in Europe.
In 1975, 40 percent of European adults were overweight.
The incidence of obesity among adults has increased by 138 percent since then, with an increase of 21 percent between 2006 and 2016.
The COVID-19 pandemic is also associated with growing waistlines, especially as lockdowns alienated “an unhealthy diet or sedentary lifestyle,” the report found.
It also revealed additional health risks associated with being overweight.
“People living with obesity were more likely to experience severe outcomes of the COVID-19 disease spectrum, including intensive care units and death,” Kluge said.
The authors also noted that the causes of obesity “are much more complex than the mere combination of unhealthy diet and physical inactivity”.
Environmental factors that are unique to “modern Europe’s highly digitalized society are also driving forces behind obesity”, it says, including the marketing of unhealthy foods and online games – especially among children.
The WHO called for policy changes to prevent obesity and promote healthy lifestyles, such as taxation of sugary drinks and supplements for healthy foods, while restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
“Political interventions targeting environmental and commercial determinants of poor nutrition at the entire population level are likely to be most effective in reversing the obesity epidemic,” it said.
The WHO European Region includes 53 countries, including several in Central Asia.
High levels of childhood obesity are alarming due to the expected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
© 2022 AFP
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