Obesity is a condition, not just a risk factor – WHO

By June Shannon Obesity News   |   12th May 2022

COVID-19 pandemic has made the obesity problem even more pressing- WHO report

Overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in the WHO European Region, affecting almost 60 per cent of adults,  a new report has found.

The new WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 also revealed that 7.9 per cent of children younger than five and one in three school-aged children are living with overweight or obesity.

The report, launched at a press event on 3 May and presented at the European Congress on Obesity, revealed that in the European Region, 59 per cent of adults and almost 1 in 3 children (29% of boys and 27% of girls) are living with overweight or obesity. Obesity prevalence for adults in the European Region is higher than in any other WHO region except for the Americas.

Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in the European Region, with recent estimates suggesting they cause more than 1.2 million deaths annually, corresponding to more than 13 per cent of total mortality in the Region, according to the report.

Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in the European Region,

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The report also warned of the serious health risks associated with rising levels of obesity. Obesity is among the top determinants of death and disability in the Region, the condition is a cause of 13 different types of cancer, and it needs to be treated and managed by multidisciplinary teams.

“Obesity knows no borders. In Europe and Central Asia, no single country is going to meet the WHO Global NCD target of halting the rise of obesity,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“The countries in our Region are incredibly diverse, but everyone is challenged to some degree. By creating more enabling environments, promoting investment and innovation in health, and developing strong and resilient health systems, we can change the trajectory of obesity in the Region.”

The report also found that overweight and obesity ranked fourth as a risk factor for death, after high blood pressure, dietary risks, and tobacco. Obesity is a complex multifactorial disease that presents a health risk. It is associated with many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

“Reversing the obesity epidemic in Europe and Ireland is still possible, but we need strong political will to tackle it."

Orna O Brien, Dietitian , The Irish Heart Foundation

For some countries in the European Region, it is predicted that in the coming decades obesity will overtake smoking as the main risk factor for preventable cancer.

The report also highlights that obesity is a condition, not just a risk factor, that needs to be specifically treated and managed.

Orna O’Brien, Dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, said the report takes the spotlight off individual choices about diet and physical activity and shines it instead on the more complex and often under-recognised environmental drivers of obesity.

“Reversing the obesity epidemic in Europe and Ireland is still possible, but we need strong political will to tackle it. This means creating enabling environments that support healthy food choices and an active lifestyle, for example, sugar taxes, subsidies on healthy food, and a ban of the marketing of unhealthy food to children.”

On the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO report said it had made the obesity problem even more pressing. Patients with obesity are more likely to experience complications and death from the virus, and many of these patients have experienced disruptions in accessing obesity management services.

Preliminary data also suggest that during the current pandemic, people have had higher exposure to obesity risk factors, including an increase in sedentary lifestyles and consumption of unhealthy foods, the report found.

For more information or to read the WHO report please see here

Photo credit: Photographer Name: Matt Love, Maura Murphy
Photographer Website: www.icpobesity.org

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