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Obesity crisis set to hit Europe, says WHO

Europe will face an obesity crisis of enormous proportions by 2030, according to the latest projections from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO looked at data from all 53 countries of the WHO European region, and compared the number of overweight (body mass index [BMI] over 25kg/m2) and obese (BMI over 30 kg/m2) males and females in 2010 with projected 2030 levels. 

“The data highlights a serious problem for many countries,” the report said. In the UK, one third (33%) of women are forecast to be obese in 2030, compared with over one quarter (26%) in 2010. 64% of women will be overweight in 2030, compared with 59% in 2010. For men, almost three quarters (74%) will be overweight in 2030 compared with 70% in 2010, while 36% of UK men will be obese in 2030 compared with 26% in 2010.

Dr Webber said: “Our study presents a worrying picture of rising obesity across Europe. Policies to reverse this trend are urgently needed. Although there is no 'silver bullet' for tackling the epidemic, governments must do more to restrict unhealthy food marketing and make healthy food more affordable.”  

Responding to the research Louise Ansari, diabetes UK director of prevention of type 2 diabetes said: “It is a cause for great concern and a wake-up call for urgent action to be taken that almost three quarters of men and almost two thirds of women in the UK are projected to be overweight by 2030.

“Being overweight or obese puts millions more people at increased risk of getting Type 2 diabetes - a serious health condition that, left undiagnosed or poorly managed, can lead to devastating complications including blindness, kidney failure and amputation.”

The majority of the countries included saw large increases in obesity forecast, notably Greece, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and the Czech Republic. An estimated 77% of Greek men are forecast to be overweight by 2030 and 67% of Greek women will be overweight in 2030, up from 53% in 2010.

In Spain, obesity in women is projected to increase from 16% in 2010 to 21% in 2030. In men, the rise will be much steeper, from 19% in 2010 to 36% in 2030. Even in countries with a traditionally lower prevalence of obesity such as Sweden, obesity rates are predicted to rise sharply.

Few countries in the report will see stable or decreasing overweight and obesity rates. In the Netherlands less than half of Dutch men (49%) are predicted to be overweight, and just 8% obese by 2030, compared with 54% and 10% in 2010. For Dutch women, the proportion of overweight will remain more or less stable over the 20 years (43% 2030 and 44% in 2010). However the obesity rate in Dutch women is predicted to fall from 13% to 9% during this period.