Belgium is among the least affected countries in Europe when it comes to obesity in young children, according to a study published during the obesity conference in Prague. Ireland and the United Kingdom are the worst affected, along with Albania. The study is based on sparse data collected from 32 European countries. It concerns the “nutritional state” of children from 0 to 5 years old.
It mainly shows a strong disparity between countries, but also “high numbers of overweight and obese people in numerous countries”, according to a press release issued by the conference organisers.
Ireland has the highest figures: 27.5% of children less than five years old in the country are overweight or obese. That’s higher than the United Kingdom (23.1%), Albania (22%), Georgia (20%), Bulgaria (19.8%) and Spain (18.4%).
The countries with the lowest child obesity rates are the Czech Republic (5.5%), Belgium (7%) and Sweden (8%). France (11.4%) and Italy (10.2% are in the middle of the table.
An adult of child is considered obese when their Body Mass Index (BMI, the height/weight ratio) is more than 25 kg/m². They are considered obese when their BMI is above 30 kg/m².
Dr Joao Breda, one of those involved in the study, works at the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) regional European bureau in Copenhagen. He said that intervening before 5 years old is “necessary to stop children becoming overweight”. This is why it’s important to collect data on overweight young children, which is not yet systematic.
According to the WHO’s predictions for 53 countries, which were also presented in Prague, Europe will be confronted with an obesity epidemic of “huge proportions” among the adult population between now and 2030. Belgium is also affected by this trend.