|Only in the last 6-8 years,
obesity has been highlighted as a global problem. Globally, more than 1
billion adults are overweight, at least 300 million of them are clinically
obese. Childhood obesity is already epidemic in some areas and increasing
in others. An estimated 17.6 million children under five are estimated to
be overweight worldwide. The key causes of obesity are the increased
consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of
sugar, salt and saturated fats combined with reduced physical activity.
The most significant consequences associated with obesity and overweight
are: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, sleep apnoe
syndrome, certain forms of cancer, osteoarthritis, psychological problems
and a decrease in perceived quality of life. (Sources:
Factsheet on obesity and overweight – World Health Organization &
The fight against obesity – European Commission / DG Research)
In the EU, around 14 million people are
currently overweight or obese, of which more than 3 million are children.
The healthcare costs related to obesity are estimated at EUR 70 to 130
million. In March 2005, a
European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health was
officially launched. The Platform brings together key EU-level
representatives of the food, retail, catering and advertising industries,
consumer organizations and health NGO’s and is part of the European
Commission’s overall strategy on nutrition to address the obesity epidemic
in Europe. The Platform recently released its
2008 annual report giving an overview of all of the Platform's ongoing
actions. In December 2005, the European Commission adopted a
Green Paper on the promotion of healthy diets and physical activity.
The Green Paper lays the base for a detailed consultation with EU
institutions, member states, industry, NGO’s, health organizations and
members of the public. It formulates a series of questions on
concrete issues such as consumer information and education.
results of the public consultation were presented on September 11,
2006. Over 260 responses were received from national governments, the
food industry, universities and the general public. Given the complexity
of the issue, most contributors call for a multi-sector approach,
involving action and coherence across EU policies. There were also calls
for special attention to be paid to children and for better consumer
information on nutrition. On May 30, 2007, the Commission published a
White Paper setting out an EU strategy to tackle nutrition, overweight
and obesity related health issues.
During the past 20 years, obesity among adults has risen significantly in
the United States. The latest data from the
National Center for Health Statistics show that 30 percent of U.S.
adults 20 years of age and older - over 60 million people - are obese.
This increase is not limited to adults. The percentage of young people who
are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. Among children and teens
aged 6–19 years, 16 percent (over 9 million young people) are considered
overweight. To help tackle the obesity epidemic, FDA launched the
“Calories Count” campaign. In January 2005, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) & the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
new dietary guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s
science-based advice to promote health and reduce risk of chronic diseases
through nutrition and physical activity.