25–70% of adults in Europe are overweight

In most countries in the WHO European Region, overweight and obesity are increasing in adults. A study of the most recently available national data reveals that 25–70% of adults are overweight, depending on the country; 5–30% are obese, and 41% do not engage in any moderate physical activity in a typical week.

Overweight and physical inactivity contribute to the explosion in noncommunicable diseases in Europe. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes mellitus account for 86% of deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the Region.

Speaking in Brussels at a high-level conference on monitoring and evaluation of European Member States’ strategies on nutrition-, overweight- and obesity-related issues on 8 December 2010, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, identified common challenges for countries and partners.

She noted the close links between obesity and social disadvantages, particularly relating to education. She called on countries to recognize the social dimension of obesity when developing policies, and to seek to bring together plans that tackle social exclusion and poverty with those addressing overweight and obesity.

Delivering for Diabetes in Europe

Overweight and physical inactivity contribute to the alarming levels of diabetes mellitus in Europe. Around 52 million people in the European Region are living with diabetes: about 8.4% of men and 7.8% of women aged 20–79 years, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

At a second meeting on 8 December, on delivering for diabetes in Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab underlined that the only sure way to control the epidemic is to stop people getting diabetes. She argued that behavioural interventions to improve diet and physical activity not only have obvious benefits for health but also are more cost-effective for the health system.