Obesity rates rising to ‘epidemic’ level in Europe: WHO report

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Most Europeans are overweight and rising rates of obesity threaten to undermine the region’s reputation for having a population that’s thinner on average than Americans, a new report showed.

Turkey and the UK are among Europe’s most overweight countries, the World Health Organization said Tuesday in a report.


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The United Nations body said it’s declaring an “obesity epidemic” after finding that 59 percent of adults in Europe had a high body-mass index in 2016.

Obesity is among the leading causes of death and disability and is responsible for about 1.2 million fatalities each year, accounting for 13 percent of mortality in Europe. No country in the region is on track to reduce obesity rates by 2025, the WHO report showed, predicting obesity will overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancers in the next decades.

Almost 74 percent of adults in the US are overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, based on data from 2017 and 2018.

The WHO said Europe has higher obesity rates than every other region except the Americas.

The WHO said unhealthy food consumption has increased during the pandemic and is expected to compound the issue. Almost one in three children in Europe have a high body-mass index, the report found. The WHO urged governments to take action to fight obesity.

“We need attention at the highest level,” said Kremlin Wickramasinghe, acting head of the WHO’s European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases. “We hope this report will be a driving force for the next decade.”

Prevalence estimates for obesity rose 21 percent in the 10 years before 2016 and more than doubled since 1975, according to the WHO. European men are more likely to be overweight than women, though the reverse is true for obesity, the report also found.

The pharmaceutical industry has been offering more medical treatments for obesity recently.

In 2021, Wegovy, a drug made by Novo Nordisk A/S became the first weight-loss treatment to get US Food & Drug Administration approval in years. The Danish company now holds more than two-thirds of the global branded obesity prescription drug market. Novo shares have gained 73 percent in the past year.

Last week, late-stage clinical data showed that Eli Lilly & Co.’s obesity drug tirzepatide helped patients on the highest tested dose shed about 21 percent of their body weight.

Read more: Cancer incidence in the region on track to double by 2040, says research report

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