Obesity rates in the European region are at “epidemic proportions,” warns the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe in a report released Tuesday.
The numbers are rising: fifty-nine percent of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese, and no country in the European region is currently on track to halt the rise in obesity by 2025. Early studies from some countries showed that the prevalence of overweight or obesity increased in children and adolescents during the pandemic.
In its report, WHO Europe noted that meal delivery apps are possibly contributing to the obesity problem, saying they can encourage sedentary behaviour. The pandemic accelerated the use of these applications when people were advised to stay home.
The report recommends policies that ensure that restaurants that are required to display nutrition information also do so in apps and that, where appropriate, meal delivery companies are classified as food businesses, so that they are held accountable in the same way.
Obesity and overweight are responsible for more than 1.2 million deaths in the region each year, according to the report.
“We need attention from the highest level of governments,” Kremlin Wickramsinghe, acting head of the WHO’s European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, said during a briefing.
Obesity is behind at least 13 different types of cancer and is likely to directly cause at least 200,000 new cancer cases each year in the region. In some countries, according to the WHO report, obesity is expected to overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for preventable cancer in the coming decades.