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Thread: European obesity trend threatens life and health expectation

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    Default European obesity trend threatens life and health expectation

    In Short:


    The current obesity trend could undermine the central demographic assumption that everybody will live longer and healthier lives, says the Commission Director General of the DG Sanco, Robert Madelin, in an interview with EurActiv.

    Background:

    Obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. Since the 1980s, the number of those affected in the EU has tripled and continues to increase at an alarming rate, especially among children. 7% of total EU healthcare costs are estimated to be spent on treating obesity-related illnesses.

    The Commission adopted, in December 2005, a Green Paper on obesity entitled Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases.

    Issues:

    "The obesity phenomenon could in 10-20 years time undermine the central assumption about our demography, which is that we're all going to go on living longer and healthier lives," said the Director General of DG Sanco, Robert Madelin in an interview with EurActiv when asked how serious the obesity problem really is in Europe. He said that the situation is already very bad in the Mediterranean countries, where adolescent obesity rates now reach over 30% in Greece and Italy. The worst 'performing' countries in Europe, the UK and Poland, are now catching up with the United States.

    "Obesity is clearly a behavioural issue. Ultimately, each individual could be of an ideal body weight - so why are we not?" asked Madelin. He puts the responsibility partly on genes, partly on the way we have learned to behave and partly on our modern life style. Emphasising that "a big part of the problem is environmental" Madelin sees a three-dimensional role for Europe in the obesity fight: EU legislation on issues such as food labelling; stimulation of increased political commitment; and provision of a 'test space' to learn what works and to share best practice.

    With regard to the current EU dossier on food labelling, Madelin says that education and information campaigns clearly prevail over regulating. "The philosophy is don't regulate unless you have to," Madelin said, while adding that some regulation is needed, as companies would be distressed if there were 25 regulations on food labelling, instead of just one.

    Through the EU platform on diet, physical activity and health, the Commission is currently trying to stimulate NGOs and economic operators to do effective intervention on obesity. "The more effective intervention, the less market failure, less amount of public intervention needed."

    For the food sector the business case for healthy food is in sales, and this argument is increasingly understood. Madelin thinks public intervention can urge business to accelerate the move.

  2. #2

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    It's a big problem. While it is by no means the most important factor, I am shocked that unhealthy food is much cheaper than healthy food: I can go to the supermarket and get 6 beef-burgers for the same price as a single bag of salad; a frozen pizza is cheaper than a bag of oranges; red meat is cheaper than fish. Maybe I am just shopping in the wrong shops but it seems to me that if we want to improve people's dietary habits, we should probably be looking at reducing the cost of good food and raising the cost of high-fat foods. If this involves using changes in VAT or putting taxes on certain foods, then so be it-there is no single issue that matters more than one's health. Our dietary habits are dangerous- processed foods with high salt content and enough calories to heat a small house. Given the prevalence of heart disease and other illnesses that stem from a chosen lifestyle, I think we have a huge vested interest in stamping out obesity- think of the actual financial cost of all of these by-pass surgeries, think of the missed time from work. Most of all though, think of the prsonal tragedies we suffer and think of the sheer wasted potential of all of these people who could so easily avoid these health problems. I think its time to tax junk-food with the same severity that we tax cigarettes and alcohol.
    The political establishment lacks both vision and courage.

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    More and more Americans are becoming too fat even for x-rays. Too fat to fit in the machines, and too fat for the x ray to penetrate. X ray images from severaly obese people only show what looks like a bad T.V reception.
    Irish people were recently mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records (2004 I think)for the most calories per capita in the World, and highest alchohol intake, yet we've managed to escape the severely obese condition inflicting Americans. Anyone know why?
    Just 1 gram of cocaine destroys 4m2 of tropical rainforest. Give it up ya selfish b'stards.

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    Fair comments, ipaw, but hopelessly optimistic. When MacDonalds brought in their 'healthy' salads, they were laden with calories and salt anyways.

    Basically, there's a huge body (!) of people who like food that is easy, cheap and belly-filling and 'junk food' can be just that. Apart from which, the food industry has no interest whatsoever in the consequences of their actions, just the money. So anywhere a cheaper ingredient can be substituted, it will be.

    Like deaths on roads, you can legislate all you like but after a point you get cries of nanny statism. Actually, it's worse because getting fat doesn't break any law afaik. But in both cases, it's down to the individual to do something.

    A truly independent organisation of food and health specialists whose job it is to evaluate foods and eating habits and make non-patronising and informative recommendations would be welcome. And I mean independent. No vested interests, no government interference, no industry funding.

    On top of that, favourable tax breaks and support along with rigorous regulation and inspection of small, indigenous food producers (say a turnover limit or employee number limit) who are encouraged to look at quality before profit.

    I'd also like to see pay by weight on planes but that's almost another issue.
    We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them

  5. #5

    Default Obesity & life expectancy

    Very few understand the factors that cause obesity, and I suggest that readers view http://www.ukhr.org/obesity as a starting point.
    On the same site, you can get link to the Washington Post article of 27 September 2003 about the massive savings in the US after they reduced industrial emissions of PM2.5s, ie particles smaller than 3 microns that are small enough ti get into the lungs. The savings, just in reduced hospital visits & fewer days off work were $193 billion [yes Billion] according to Office of Management & Budget at the White House.
    "Badger" of Texas dismissed me [21 June 2006] on this site on comments about my research into rates of birth defects as being untrained in epidemiology, and yet he must have heard of Dr John Snow, the father of epidemiology, who was untrained in that field [or sef-taught?] and yet he was bright enough to plot choleras deaths on a map & see pattern of death showing association with water. The medical establishment ignored Snow, but he was right & the rest of the world was wrong. We've a similar situation here in UK with PM2.5s, which the medical establishment prefer to ignore. Dr Dick van Steenis started his research with childhood asthma survey in West Wales [The Lancet, 8 April 1995] finding elevated rates of asthma in zones downwind of the oil refinery/power station complex at Milford Haven waterway. He followed up with cancer admissions data for high & low asthma zones & found tweny-fold differential [high asthma= high cancer] and he also obtained referral rates to Consultant Psychiatrist for clinical depression in high & low asthma zones & found a nne-fold differential. [high asthma=high depression]. The death rates [standardised mortality ratios 1999-2003] in every electoral ward in England & Wales have recently been made available & Pembroke Monkton ward & other wards in Pembroke Dock district [near oil refineries] have highest SMRs [max SMR=149] and yet a few miles north of Milford Haven at Rudbaxton ward, teh SMR is in low 60s, indicating about a twenty year differential in life-span. Anywhere with SMR less than 100 has had a lower than average death rate. The electoral wards near sources of industrial PM2.5s are all high, eg, in the London Borough of Bexley, where I married the best looking girl in 1972, North End ward has highest SMR=128 & "just happens" to be nearest ward to Littlebrook D Power Station. The two wards in joint 2nd highest place each have incinerators, namely Thamesmead East and Sidcup [SMR=114]. Take a look at ward map at Bexley Borough site & see how these wards aren't close to each other. SELCHP is an incinerator at Deptford in Borough of Lewisham & New Cross ward [where incinerator is sited] has highest SMR in Borough. The next highest is Evelyn ward, which is rightnext door on downwind side. What about cement works? Look at CEMEX, Rugby. The cement plant is just upwind of Avon & Swift ward which has the highest SMR for deaths under 85 years in West Midlands at SMR=169. Here in Shropshire, Ironbridge Power Station is major polluter & my asthma survey [www.ukhr.org/asthma] revealed elevated asthma inhaler usage in schools downwind of power station & a brickworks. The school with just 1.9% of Years 3 to 6 children bringing inhalers to school for asthma is in Dothill ward, where there hasn't been an infant death in each of the ten years 1995-2004 according to the Office of National Statistics. Ironbridge Gorge ward [downwind of power station has SMR=149. The power station is at downwind end of Severn Valley ward [SMR=85] and the next ward upwind is Lawley ward, SMR=69. It's noty your lifestyle or social class that determines when you die because the Health Effects Institute proved that exposure to industrial PM2.5s is the main factor in health & life expectancy. "Badger of Texas" shouldn't underestimate Chartered Civil Engineers as we are used to examining data & spotting errors. I shouldn't be doing this research, but I've lived near an incinerator for nearly 30 years and have only realised the health hazards since 2002, even though we've buried two of our children - our ony daughter at 14 weeks in 1985 and our 2nd son [leukaemia] at age 19 years in 1999. I should be back in the land of my ancestors and also my wife's, but property is very dear in your country and you are going for incinerators & ignoring the health damage detailed in the reports by Dr Dick van Steenis at bottom of home page at http://www.countrydoctor.co.uk I hope that this is of use, particularly to politicians who might not realise that plasma-gasification has Nett cost of about 21 per tonne, compared with incinerators costing 63 per tonne plus the same again in health damage. Who wouldn't want to save 100 per tonne in waste disposal & not make people ill at the same time. It's a "no-brainer" & yet even London Mayor Ken Livingstone can't say the word in today's Bexley Times. He refers to "clean hydrogen". The UK government are great at collecting statistics, but hopeless at interpreting them. They've collected birth defect data since Jan 1964 and just look at the graph of heart & circulatory defects 1971-2003 & the upswing from 1995 that's been caused by the burning of hazarous waste as fuel. The cancer graph for most solid adult cancers will have same shape but will be offset by about 15 years. Kind regards, Michael Ryan, Shrewsbury

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bogwarrior
    Irish people were recently mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records (2004 I think)for the most calories per capita in the World, and highest alchohol intake, yet we've managed to escape the severely obese condition inflicting Americans. Anyone know why?
    As I understand it (and I'm a computer programmer and definitely not a dietician or health freak) - It's not the calories, it's the type of food being consumed. Complex carbohydrates (unprocessed rice, spuds, pasta, breads) are broken down more slowly and so provide a steady stream of energy to the body over a few hours. If yer reasonably active i.e. you get off the couch at least once a day, you'll burn up this energy as it arrives and so not gain weight.

    Processed foods with lots of processed carbohydrates and sugars give you a sudden surge of energy as they are processed by yer guts very quickly, but the body doesn't know what to do with it all and stores it as fat...and you'll feel hungry again sooner because the digestive system is finished sooner and sends a trigger to the brain for more input...and coming down off the sugar rush makes you grumpy and your body associates sugary processed food with feeling happy....vicious cycle

    So the difference between Ireland and the US up until recently was that we ate more natural food, fresh and cooked from the original ingredients. Yer ma's home cooking, in other words. In the US they've been eating mass-produced processed crap for 40 years and we can see the result. The same crap hit Irish shops in the last 20 years, and Irish children these days are a lot fatter than they used to be, whereas Irish people that are a bit older ate decent enough food for most of their lives and probably still do out of habit.

    So as a nation we'll be as fat as the Americans are now in 20 years once all the older home-cooking eaters have died off.

    I actually find it a lot cheaper to cook for myself - to actually spend 40 minutes putting together a chilli, or a spag bol, or leaving a stew or casserole bubbling for a couple of hours, or a bratwurst peas n chips, or whatever (chips made by slicing up some real live spuds). A single person can feed themselves with pretty decent grub, home cooked, for under 20 a week easily.
    Je suis un loo-lah

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    Michael Ryan: you're putting into words what sensible people know instinctively.

    Coincidentally, I've just read Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber. It's a little dated now but but it's just as frightening as your stats. Made more so, really, because of the people she's related to who have died of one cancer or another (with sympathies to yourself).

    We're living in an upside-down world where profit is more important than health and information is not just hard to come by, it simply doesn't exist.
    We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them

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    The key to not becoming a fat b@stard?

    Eat less move more.

    Simple formula.

    8)
    Let's all raise a glass of frog milk to the ancient festival of Fargaltide!

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    Quote Originally Posted by The OD
    The key to not becoming a fat b@stard?

    Eat less move more.

    Simple formula.

    8)
    Out for lunch the other day: baked potato with baked beans and a fresh side salad.

    Whilst engaged in consuming this excellent meal - just one of many nutritious, healthy and filling options in this restaurant - a male and a female of the American kind, mid-twenties I'd guess, came in.

    They were huge, almost the same in circumference as height. They each ordered cheeseburger with fries and large Cokes. Naturally, their meals arrived with side salad.

    They left the salad.
    We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder

    So the difference between Ireland and the US up until recently was that we ate more natural food, fresh and cooked from the original ingredients. Yer ma's home cooking, in other words.
    I actually find it a lot cheaper to cook for myself - to actually spend 40 minutes putting together a chilli, or a spag bol, or leaving a stew or casserole bubbling for a couple of hours, or a bratwurst peas n chips, or whatever (chips made by slicing up some real live spuds). A single person can feed themselves with pretty decent grub, home cooked, for under 20 a week easily.
    Pretty good post there sidewinder. I can do as you suggest for in or around 40-50 for a couple and we are quite physical too so burn it off.

    Its definitely the amount of crap you eat as opposed to the amount of actual food (yes I know what I said in my last post but what your eating seriously has a bearing on your body rating).

    Most people dont even know what their daily calorie requirements are must less by how much they are exceeding it. The calories in some foods are shocking to say the least (I flinch every time I see someone getting a 'breakfast' roll - heart attack roll more like ) and I seriously hate to hear of people do things like the Atkins diets or some other crapola.

    On one hand I believe your own health is your own repsonsibility but as IPAW states correctly above, it seems that healthy eating is made difficult for you before you even try.

    Obesity is a terrible problem but the proliferation of it in children is truly horrendous as we see waddling little kids who may as well have a 'life expectancy: 35-50 years' sign on their adult sized t-shirts. Surely people feeding their kids absolute crap is contravening some basic human right, but its easy to just blame the parents. Look at the back of some of the processed foods and they will give you the sodium content of whats in the packet but not the actual salt content itself, spinning b@stards that they are.

    Look at the rise of the spar/mace/911 lunch outlets and their menus (example being that a lot only sell tune laced with bloody mayo and sweetcorn), the price of tacky burgers, 'chicken' products etc. As sidewinder mentioned a good 45-60 mins to cook up something substantial whereas I could have a processed meal in 5-7 mins with all the salt and preservatives that go with it? Its extremely frustrating but a little bit of effort pays off in the long run. However, when your cooking for 2 adults and 2/4 children its just isnt so easy.
    Let's all raise a glass of frog milk to the ancient festival of Fargaltide!

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