Children at risk
The EU has seen an acute rise in the number of overweight and obese people, as the high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt and low-exercise lifestyle becomes more widespread. Children are especially at risk. Studies have shown that one in five EU children are now overweight. Today, there are 14 million overweight and 3 million obese children in the EU, while another 400 000 become overweight each year.
There is a clear relationship between the rapid increases in obesity and ‘Type 2’ diabetes. This form is characterised by insulin resistance, wherein body cells do not respond appropriately when insulin is present. About 90-95% of diabetics suffer from Type 2.
The more a person weighs the greater their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The causal mechanisms behind this relationship are not clear, but excessive adipose tissue seems to increase insulin resistance and, therefore, glucose levels.
Particular challenges for both children and adults living with diabetes include the management of insulin injections, dealing with low blood glucose levels and maintaining a healthy diet.
Combating obesity and Type 2 diabetes
Once a person becomes chronically overweight, their brain interprets reduced food intake as a threat to survival, reducing metabolic rate, diverting energy to the maintenance of body composition and, thus, defending existing energy stores at a ‘set point’.
The main goal of the EU-funded DIABESITY research project is to identify and validate new targets for obesity treatment and prevention to regulate this set point. In particular; through studies of human genetics in obese individuals, researchers are seeking to identify novel gene linkages with obesity and body composition.
On March 15, 2005, the Commission launched the ‘Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health’.