Belgium in Brief: Obesity, Europe's new epidemic?

Belgium in Brief: Obesity, Europe's new epidemic?
Credit: Canva, Pexels

Keeping in shape is a struggle at the best of times; throw in a pandemic and lifestyles that increasingly lend themselves to sitting in front of a screen and maintaining a healthy physique requires an almost contradictory effort to kick out against modern habit.

Hardly surprising then that Europeans are growing, well, larger. So much so, in fact, that being overweight has swelled to "epidemic" proportions, according to the WHO. And although the problem is particularly acute on the continent, waistlines around the world are bulging as diets include ever more processed foods with little nutritional value.

Besides the health concerns that come with piling on the pounds (among them the fact that overweight people were more susceptible to Covid-19), the cost to the environment is also becoming harder to ignore. As the world adopts an increasingly Western diet – in which meat accounts for an ever-larger portion of calories consumed – the resources needed to sustain this shift are, on a global scale, unsustainable.

The challenges of feeding world populations are now intensified as drought and conflict threaten grain production. Cereals form the basis of diets around the world but with the cost of wheat doubling in the last year, the threat of starvation is growing as well. The pandemic already led to 166 million people becoming chronically malnourished.

At the same time, just 23% of cereals produced within the EU are for human consumption; 62% are used to feed animals raised for human consumption. The disparity between the two underlines the gross inefficiency of our diet, quite apart from the fact that excessive consumption of meat (a category that a huge number of Europeans fall into) has been shown to be hugely unhealthy.

Of course, what we put into our bodies is an inherently personal decision, although the cost of food is often a determining factor for consumers rather than a product's sustainability. But whether for our health or the health of the planet, we can no longer afford to continue with the status quo.

Will you be making changes to your diet? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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