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