Obesity on the rise in Europe

Nine out of 10 people believe that obesity is a disease, yet only one in 10 seeks medical help when trying to lose excess weight; another 30 percent follow the advice of friends, relatives or tips in magazines. These are just some of the findings of a nationwide survey presented recently by the Greek Medical Association. The survey, carried out in September 2003 among 500 people aged 18-64, found that six in 10 believe that the best way to lose weight is to have a healthy diet, followed by exercise, a specific diet or by attending a slimming center, but only 41 percent said they had decided to lose weight by adopting a healthy diet. Another 33 percent mentioned specific diets and 32 percent exercise. Men appear to be more convinced than women about the value of exercise (39 percent compared to 25 percent of women), while women prefer slimming diets (43 percent compared to 23 percent of men). The vast majority (91 percent) believe that being overweight is a health issue, but only 12 percent try to lose weight on the basis of advice from a doctor. One quarter consult a dietician and another 20 percent a diet recommended by a friend or relative. About 18 percent said they improvised their own eating regime. About 60 percent of those polled were overweight, 30 percent obese. Just 10 percent of the respondents were the right weight, although 10 percent mistakenly thought they were overweight. Women, mostly younger ones, and people from higher socioeconomic groups were more likely to belong to this group. One in four said they had never gone on a diet; of the remainder, 75 percent said they did so at least once year, but over half said their diet never lasted more than a month. According to the specialists, a diet should last several months if it is to have lasting results. Obesity is on the rise in Europe, where 135 million people are suffering from the condition, chiefly as the result of poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. The experts warn that if the problem is not dealt with, by 2030 between 60-70 percent of people in the West will be overweight. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is a disease that is reaching epidemic proportions. Around 25 percent of the population of the USA are considered to be obese, and over 280,000 deaths every year are due to diseases related to obesity. Greeks hold the record for obesity among European Union member states, with 35.4 percent of men and 30.8 percent of women being overweight, according to the Panhellenic Association of Dieticians. Increasing obesity among children and teenagers is causing concern as a serious risk factor in the rise of chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer during adult life. The highest percentages of childhood obesity in Europe are in the eastern and southern states such as Hungary, Italy, Greece and Spain.