Epidemiology in Europe: the problem starts in childhood

Overweight and overt obesity are increasing in both sexes and at all ages in nearly all European countries, as the WHO-MONICA study and other WHO recent estimates have shown. The problem especially affects women and children of the Mediterranean and of Central and Eastern Europe.

Reasons for this growing problem are the steady increase of total caloric intake over the last decades and the absence of sufficient daily physical exercise. The resulting energy unbalance inevitably leads to obesity. In Southern Europe the departure from traditional Mediterranean diets toward manufactured foods over the years may be contributing to the trend. In particular, the high marketing pressure to consume foods high in total fat, refined sugar and salt makes children especially vulnerable, as a recent report of the European Heart Network, the Federation of Heart Foundations, recently pointed out.

As part of the general trend in the population, cardiac patients are also currently more obese than before, as the ESC Euroaspire and other surveys have showed, carrying a greater difficulty for patients and doctors to control risk factors and symptoms and a greater probability of adverse disease outcomes. Obese persons are also more likely to suffer from heart failure.

Scientific evidence of the health consequences of mass obesity is growing year after year. These are multiple, but most importantly due to their frequency and consequences are raised blood pressure, insulin resistance and increased blood glucose, high non-HDL cholesterol and tryglicerides. The cluster of these abnormalities, with other risk factors, form what is called the metabolic syndrome , which often is a preliminary step for overt type2 diabetes. In women, additionally, obesity has adverse effects in sexual hormones and pregnancy outcomes and carries a greater risk for breast cancer.

Increasing numbers of children in Europe are suffering the classic health problems often associ

Contact: Gina Dellios
European Society of Cardiology

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