Time to act
Governments across Europe have declared obesity to be one of Europe’s most pressing public health challenges, particularly for children. Chronically overweight individuals face a number of serious health – and even social – consequences, and their quality of life can be seriously hampered.
Obesity is not a disease, but it increases the risk, as a person’s weight climbs, of developing many serious illnesses, including heart disease, hypertension, stroke, respiratory disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer. Europe’s obesity epidemic has already been blamed for a rise in the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes.
Platform for change
This rapidly expanding crisis has caused alarm among experts and politicians. The EU has an important role to play in dealing with this challenge through its food safety, public health, education, internal market, research and agricultural policies.
In order to face up to this Union-wide issue, the European Commission launched the European Platform for Action on Diet and Physical Activity. The Platform brings together key EU-level representatives of the food, retail, catering, and advertising industries, consumer organisations and health NGOs.
Lightening the burden of obesity
In several European countries, the cost of obesity has already reached 5% of public health expenditure. The five-year LIPGENE project is helping to reduce its economic and social burden by assessing the potential for diet-based prevention of metabolic syndrome. Focusing on the adult population, this project seeks to build an understanding of how differences in the composition of dietary fat interact with natural human genetic variation. It also aims to develop new plant-based oils that can reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. The project brings together a multidisciplinary network of scientists from 25 European laboratories specialised in different disciplines.
Preparing teens for healthy adulthood
Adolescence is one of the trickiest periods in our lives because of all the changes it involves. But this high-speed biological race towards adulthood carries massive long-term implications. This means that dietary and lifestyle choices made at this sensitive age can affect people for the rest of their lives. For the first time in Europe, HELENA will provide comparable data on food intake, dietary preferences and physical activity among European teenagers of both sexes. It will use this information to develop a lifestyle education programme for adolescents, as well as healthy new foods.