Europe’s obesity problem takes on new urgency

Studies show a relationship between the risk of death from COVID-19 and being overweight, as measured by body mass index

As Europe emerges from its coronavirus lockdown, public health experts point to an uncomfortable truth: Many of its citizens will need to shed a few kilos as part of a long-term prevention strategy.

The question for the EU is whether it’ll miss a key moment to intervene.
One clear finding from the pandemic is that people with pre-existing conditions — including obesity and related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension — face higher risks of severe illness and death.

And worse, this vulnerable population is growing. According to the World Health Organization, the share of adults in the EU who suffer from obesity or are overweight increased from 47 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2016.

Moreover, around 1 in 3 children aged between 6 and 9 in the EU are overweight or obese — a strong predictor for future weight problems — according to World Health Organization data.

«Obesity is a gateway disease to over 230 different complications,» explained Jacqueline Bowman-Busato, EU Policy Lead at the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

That list includes 20 percent of cancers, she noted, while 80 percent of people with uncontrolled or severe obesity go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

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