A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that the EU is failing to reach its targets on obesity and that the health issues this is causing are now leading to approximately 1.2 million excess deaths every year in Europe.
The report examines obesity, which is a complex issue that now affects 60% of adults. The European Commission declared that it was a chronic disease last year and set a target of stopping any additional rises in obesity by 2025.
However, this report shows that not a single EU country is on track to meet this goal, despite huge efforts by the WHO and EU, including multiple action plans and policy frameworks such as the “Nutri-Score” initiative.
Has COVID-19 increased the risk of obesity?
When presenting the report, Kremlin Wickramasinghe from the WHO European Office claimed that we are now facing a “tsunami of obesity,” and that during the pandemic, obese people had a much higher risk of developing severe complications from the disease.
There are also concerns that lockdowns could increase obesity rates. When people are confined to their homes for long periods, it can take a heavy toll.
According to a recent survey, the number of Europeans claiming to have a “bad state of mind” has tripled to reach 23%. In Spain, 80% of people said they had considered seeking professional help for mental health problems, and Italians saw the worst decline in their mental health of all European countries.
This, along with other changes in daily activities, can mean weight gain for some people. In fact, one study found that 42% of adults reported undesired weight gain since the start of the pandemic, with an average gain of 29 pounds.
David Sarwer, Ph.D., an author of the study, noted: “The stress, isolation, and challenges of making life work over the past year have necessitated changes in our behavior. For those of us in the obesity field, the weight changes aren’t surprising—but they are concerning.”
How the EU plans to tackle obesity
When reporting the findings of the WHO report and how the EU plans to tackle obesity, Kremlin Wickramasinghe said: “The actions we took are not adequate to turn the curve, still, it’s going up. That’s why we need to really change our business and find new ways to kind of accelerate our work to tackle obesity”, adding that “this is multifactorial [disease], […], with lots of factors so that one policy may not lead to change in obesity”.
The EU has launched a number of initiatives to help focus on obesity and improve nutrition. However, without further action, obesity rates will continue to take a toll on Europe’s health systems.
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