More than half of adults obese or overweight in E.U.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- More than half of adults in European Union nations are obese or overweight and the young are increasingly making Europe a fat continent, the European Union's top public health official said Wednesday.
Diets based on fatty and sweet ingredients combined with lack of physical activity account for six of the seven top factors leading to poor health, said E.U. health commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
For years the European Union Commission has warned governments to act, but the situation is getting worse. "Everybody has to be blamed -- including the authorities, including the industry, including the consumers," Kyprianou said.
His biggest worry is the growing girth of children. "If we don't act, today's overweight children will be tomorrow's heart attack victims," he said.
In the 27-nation bloc, the European Union says that over 21 million children are overweight. "Even more worrying is that the rate of increase of that number is more than 400,000 children a year."
To counter the trend, the European Union has asked food manufacturers to promote healthier foods and says it has obtained commitments from many popular producers.
But consumers consciously make bad choices, Kyprianou said. Around the Mediterranean, a healthy diet based on olive oil and fresh fish is on the wane.
"Now the biggest problem of obesity is in the southern member states who have abandoned the Mediterranean diet and go for the same kind of nutrition of fast food as elsewhere," Kyprianou said.
Overall, the consumption of fruit and vegetables is lower than medical recommendations. The intake of fat and saturated fats is high throughout the continent, while the consumption of cereals has fallen by a quarter since the 1960s in Europe.
It has contributed to a situation "in which the majority of the member states, more than 50 percent of the adult population, is overweight or obese," Kyprianou said. "The numbers are frightening."
On Wednesday, the Commission proposed to tighten advertising standards on unhealthy processed food. It called on the food industry to cut down on sugar, fat and salt and urged sports organizations to do more to get youngsters to engage in physical exercise.
Even sports are becoming sweat free, Kyprianou noted. "A parent said that his son would go home and play basketball on the computer. They like the game but they won't play it."
"They sit in front of a television, the computer screen or play video games," he said. "It is a reality of life."