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21st Jan 2019

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Industry urged to tackle obesity as Europeans get fatter

People in Luxembourg, Denmark and Ireland are gaining weight at the fastest rate in the EU, according to a survey conducted for the European Commission.

Published on Thursday (9 November), last year's research shows that Luxembourgers put on an average of 2.7kg since 2002, the Danes 1.7kg and the Irish 1.6kg.

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  • 9 out of 10 people think advertising influences what children eat and drink (Photo: EUobserver)

The average weight in the EU clocks in at 72.2kg with the Danes (75.9kg) and the Dutch (75.9) coming in at the weightier end of the scale. Non-EU member Croatia has the heaviest citizens of the 29 countries surveyed with an average of 76.3kg.

At the other end of the weight scale, the French (69.7kg), Portuguese (69kg) and Italians (68.7kg) appear to be the most svelte in the EU.

Since the last survey in 2002, where the 15 member states of the time were examined, the average weight has increased in 11 of the countries.

Using a height-rate ratio – known as Body Mass Index - which the report says provide a more accurate corpulent picture in the EU, Croatians and Luxembourgers have the highest index while France and Italy once again emerge at the thinner end of the scale.

Meanwhile, one in five people in the EU had dieted in the 12 months prior to the study –with the Maltese turning out to be the most likely to diet (34%) – while respondents averaged six hours of sitting per day and a relatively small 22% said they had performed a lot of physical activity in the previous week.

14 million overweight children

The results the survey come as Europe is waking up to what health commissioner Markos Kyprianou called an "obesity epidemic." Focusing on children, the commissioner said there were some 14 million overweight children in the EU with an extra 400,000 joining the ranks every year.

Fearful of being regulated by the EU and prodded into action by public opinion – nine out of ten Europeans believe that advertising influences children food and drink choice – a series of companies yesterday announced voluntary measures to tackle obesity.

"We are facing a complex problem that cannot be solved by legislation," Mr Kyprianou said adding that he is willing to publicly laud companies if they take own-initiative fat-cutting action.

On Thursday it was Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Unilever and Kraft praised on the EU podium.

Of the measures taken, Kraft has said it will stop selling in primary schools, Unilever has reduced salt and sugar content in its products while the nine companies that are members of the Union of European Beverages Associations have said they will stop advertising to under-12s.

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