archive image

European Commission - Research - Biosociety

Biosociety and the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy
Knowledge based bio-economy
EU-funded research











News & Events
Page last update: 25/12/2008

Europe's fight against obesity

Obesity, in which the body's natural energy reserve, stored in a person's fatty tissue, increases to the point where it may become associated with certain disorders and even increased mortality, has been identified as a growing problem. It is looked upon as a cause for concern since excessive body weight may lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus type 2, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has named obesity as one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. In Europe alone, its frequency has trebled since the 1980s, and the numbers of those affected continue to rise at an alarming rate, particularly among children. Indeed, it has been calculated that obesity is already responsible for 2-8 percent of health costs and 10-13 percent of deaths in different parts of the region. In order to fight obesity, a pan-European programme, Diogenes, was developed to target the problem from a dietary perspective. Over the years it has sought and discovered new insights and new directions in prevention.

Taking action

Standing for "Diet, Obesity and Genes", the Diogenes project has, over the years, sought and found holistic approaches to combating the problem of obesity in Europe.

As part of the Diogenes project, a broad participatory meeting was held in Munich recently. Attending the meeting were a number of stakeholders from all sectors, including academic and food industry experts. Hosted by Kraft Foods R&D Inc, the event was attended by representatives from leading food producers, as well as 15 academic research centres and organisations from 10 European countries. The meeting gave the stakeholders the opportunity to discuss how they could work together to fight obesity most effectively.

Diogenes' co-coordinator, Professor Wim Saris, was at the event and said he was pleased with the common ground achieved at the meeting. 'Based on joint past experience, experts agree that the fight against obesity must not focus on changing consumer food behaviour alone. The food industry must continue to work on product reformulation, based on sound research and evidence and through setting standards for nutrition labelling, to move specific products into healthier categories,' Prof. Saris explained. He went on to say that it is also important to promote overall healthy lifestyle choices, including physical activity, however.

The importance of innovation

Another point of common ground that was achieved among those who attended was the fact that product innovation and reformulation, together with appropriate nutrition labelling, are key measures that the food industry can take to challenge obesity.

Prof. Saris noted that evidence is emerging that the EC consumer is generally well informed, but disinclined to action. 'The challenge for Diogenes partners then is both to increase understanding of consumer behaviour and to research and develop products that will motivate consumers to make healthy choices. All stakeholders, from producers to distributors to retailers and restaurants, must play a part,' Saris continued. 'While major food companies are leading the way, all companies and organisations, regardless of size or geographic reach, must participate if we are to challenge obesity effectively.'

A detailed document covering the meeting in full is currently in the preparation stage and will be published within the next few months.

For further information:

Last update: 25 December 2008 | Top