The prevalence of overweight, including obesity, among children aged five to nine years in Portugal is 36%, above the estimate for the WHO European Region, of 29.5%, indicates a report by the organization.
Released on Wednesday, the latest European Regional Obesity Report from the World Health Organization estimates, based on data from 2016, that almost one in three children of “primary school age” in the region suffer from overweight, including obesity. , which affects one in eight (11.6%).
Portugal is the seventh worst among the 53 countries in the region, with around 36% of children of that age being overweight, of which almost 15% suffer from obesity.
The average of the member states of the European Union (EU) is around 32%, including 12% with obesity, while in Italy, the worst country in the WHO European region, the percentages are 42% with overweight, including 17 % obese. Tajikistan is the best with 16% and 4% respectively.
In the case of children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years, Portugal is not so bad, with 30% overweight, of which around 8% suffer from obesity, above the EU average (around 27%) in the first case , while the percentage of obese people is practically the same (close to 8%).
The average for the WHO European region is 25% and 7%, respectively, with Greece being the country with the highest percentages (35% and 12%) and Tajikistan remaining the country with the lowest percentages (14% and about 2%).
“The same data show that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among boys between the ages of five and 19 increased almost three times between 1975 and 2016 and more than doubled in the case of girls” and it is estimated that, by 2035, the what is called a “silent epidemic” will affect 17 million boys and 11 million girls of those ages in the region.
The report recalls that obesity is a “complex multifactorial disease”, noting that recent estimates indicate that being overweight is the “fourth most common risk factor for non-communicable diseases”, after high blood pressure, dietary risks and tobacco.
Obesity is linked to a greater risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, as well as “at least 13 different types of cancer”, being considered “directly responsible for at least 200,000 new cases annually in the region”.
It is estimated that being overweight causes more than 1.2 million deaths in the WHO European region every year and has annual costs of more than 800 billion dollars (about 733 billion euros).
The United Nations health agency indicates that the forecast is of an “alarming” worsening of the situation and underlines that obesity during childhood “often continues” in adolescence and adult life, considering that “early prevention is crucial to reverse the current trends”.
It is necessary to bet on better nutrition, on the regulation of the food and beverage industry, for example with higher rates on sugary drinks, as well as on greater clarity in packaging and on advertising restrictions on foods that are harmful to children.
It is also important to promote physical activity, in schools and beyond, and “disseminate messages about an active lifestyle”.
The regional director for Europe of the WHO, Hans Kluge, considers that “no isolated intervention can prevent the increase of overweight and obesity”.