EU tackles expanding waistlines

Four in five Greek men are perceived as overweight, according to the European Commission, which called on member states yesterday to implement measures aimed at fighting obesity, especially among children. The figures are just as grim for the country’s female population, with three in four women being classified as overweight. The problem goes beyond the issue of appearance and a health risk, with a large financial cost involved, according to the Commission. Weight-related costs take up 7 percent of national healthcare budgets among member states, without taking into account lost productivity and the strain on health insurance funds. The number of overweight Greek men is only slightly higher than other EU nations. Germany, the Czech Republic and Cyprus closely follow Greek averages. In the case of women, however, Greeks are clearly at the top of the list with a considerable gap from the second-placed country, Malta. The Commission is issuing a public invitation to find concrete ideas for tackling an alarming rise in obesity. «More than 400,000 children are estimated to become overweight every year and today’s overweight teenagers are tomorrow’s heart attack or diabetes victims,» said EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. In the EU, up to 27 percent of men and 38 percent of women are considered obese, with almost one in four children seen as overweight. According to previous data, Crete has one of the worst records in Europe for obesity with more than a third (35 percent) of local children aged between 13 and 17 categorized as obese. The problem is becoming increasingly worse in southern countries as traditionally healthy Mediterranean diets give way to processed foods rich in fat, sugar and salt. The Commission’s public consultation will run until March with a report summarizing the findings due by June.