obesity and other conditions related to an imbalanced nutrition
Overweight, pre-obesity and obesity are associated with
excessive food consumption and with the intake of excessive (as compared to
physiological needs) energy-dense food (i.e. food containing large amounts of
saturated fats and free sugars), often cheaper than good quality food. The
prevalence of overweight and obesity is also growing rapidly in many European
countries for both women and men. According to WHO estimates, excessive body
weight derived from excessive food consumption and inadequate physical
activity, is responsible for more than 1 million life-years of ill
health every year in the WHO Europe region.
Current EU environments favour overweight and obesity.
There is an abundance of food in Europe that, while energy-rich, is often poor
in nutrients. Food portion sizes are growing, though people with sedentary
lifestyles actually need less energy. Social and economic pressures can mean
that both work and leisure hours offer decreasing opportunities for physical
activity. There are distinct differences in the Northern and Southern
(Mediterranean) food cultures. Nevertheless, it has been seen across all Member
States that it is the least educated who consume fewer vegetables and are on
average shorter and more obese than the most educated, though the dimension of
these differences can vary between men and women and in accordance with the
drinking and diet culture (European Commission, 2003).
Excess body weight associated with
excess energy intake poses one of the most serious public health challenges for
the 21st century in particular parts of the world, including the Member States
of the European Union (EU) (Commission of the European Communities, 2005; WHO,
2000). A body mass index (BMI) above the optimum level of 21 kg/m2
is among the five global disease burden risk factors closely related to diet
and physical activity; these are high blood pressure, high
blood cholesterol level, high BMI, low fruit and vegetable intake and physical
inactivity (James et al, 2004; WHO, 2002; WHO Regional Office for Europe,
Lifestyle factors, including eating habits and
levels of physical activity/inactivity are often adopted
during the early years of life. Childhood obesity is an important predictor of
obesity in adulthood (Branca et al, 2007a; Branca et al, 2007b). The best time
to address the problem is early in life.oreover, a systematic review shows
that childhood obesity is strongly associated with risk factors for
cardiovascular disease and diabetes, orthopaedic problems and mental disorders.
A high BMI in adolescence predicts elevated adult mortality rates and
cardiovascular disease, even if the excess body weight is
lost. Many obesity-related health conditions once thought to be applicable only
to adults are now being seen among children and with increasing frequency
(Dietz, 1998). A true epidemic of overweight is progressing in the WHO European
region (53, Member States) among children and adolescents. It is predicted that
about 38% of school-age children will be overweight by 2010 and that more than
a quarter of these children will be obese.
Apart from the health consequences, overweight and obesity
also impose an economic burden on society through increased medical costs to
treat the diseases associated with it (direct costs); lost of productivity due
to absenteeism and premature death (indirect costs); missed opportunities,
psychological problems and poorer quality of life (intangible costs) (Branca et
al, 2007a; Branca et al, 2007b). It is estimated that in the EU, obesity
accounts for up to 7% of health care costs and this amount will further
increase given the rising obesity trends (Commission of the European
Communities, 2005). In 2002, the total direct and indirect annual costs of
obesity in the EU15 (EU members before 2004) were estimated to be €32.8 billion
per year (Fry and Finley, 2005). The WHO Regional Office for Europe prepared a
compilation of direct cost studies worldwide including those carried out in the
EU (Branca et al, 2007a; Branca et al, 2007b): health expenditure per
inhabitant attributable to obesity ranges between US$ 17 (Germany, 2001) and
US$ 202 (France, 1992).
In spite of the excessive food consumptions occurring in
very large population groups throughout Europe, some nutrients ( e.g. folate,
calcium, iodine and iron and specific vitamins) are not ingested in sufficient
quantities by specific population groups; this originates diseases such as
neural defects, osteoporosis, goiter, anaemia and hypovitaminoses. The
prevalence of these diseases is particularly significant in certain risk groups
among elderly, children, pregnant and lactating women.
The above-mentioned diseases are dealt with in Chapter
10.2.1.7 in view of the close connection of these diseases with excessive food
intake and unbalanced nutrition.
the quoted references, see Chapter 10.2.1.7.