| Obesity: A Global
Problem with Local Roots
Obesity is a global problem that affects 300 million people but
local policies are needed to control an epidemic which is likely
to get worse before it gets better, a leading expert said.
Professor Peter Kopelman, president
of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), believes
it could be five or 10 years until the epidemic peaks.
"We need to have strategies at
a national and local level to tackle the immediate problems that
every population is facing," he said ahead of the start of the
13th European Congress on Obesity in Prague.
"There are priorities on a national
level because people who are suffering most are largely those
that are socially deprived. It is particular ethnic groups and
particular cultures that seem to be suffering from the medical
complications of obesity."
Up to 20 percent of men and 25
percent of women in European countries are considered obese. Yugoslavia,
Greece, Romania and the Czech Republic have among the highest
rates, while the Netherlands, Norway, Hungary and Switzerland
have the lowest.
"What we need to do is target population
subgroups to try and immediately reduce the prevalence of obesity
in those groups," Kopelman added.
FOOD, ENERGY, GENES, ECONOMICS
High fat, energy dense diets and
sedentary lifestyles over the past 20 to 30 years, along with
economic growth, urbanization and the globalization of food markets
have contributed to expanding waistlines around the globe and
have resulted in more than one billion overweight adults and at
least 155 million overweight children worldwide.
Scientists are also learning more
about the role of genetics and the influence of adipose tissue
in the body and how it alters the energy balance within human
"No one is predestined to become
obese but people are certainly predisposed," said Kopelman.
Targeting people and children with
lifestyle measures should be a priority to stem the problem.
People also need to be better educated
about the impact of their diet not only on their waistlines but
on their future health.
"I still don't think people understand
the fundamental causes, nor do they relate increasing weight with
potential dangers, whether it be heart disease or diabetes," he
Obesity is linked with an increased
risk of certain cancers, osteoarthritis and other complications.
While local and national strategies
focus on people most at risk of becoming overweight or obesity,
Kopelman said international efforts could tackle the wider issues.
"There need to be coordinated strategies
across the globe because a lot of the problem relates to the manufacture,
the promotion, the production of food, as well as the decline
in physical activity both in the developed and the developing
world," he said.
Poor countries are faced with what
he called a "double whammy."
"They still have a population that
is undernourished and now also, with increasing affluence and
availability of food, a population that is becoming increasingly
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