Following on from a worrying World Health Organisation (WHO) report released recently which revealed that nearly 60% of Europeans are overweight or obese, the figures specific to Belgium also set the alarm bells ringing.
One in four Belgian children and six in ten adults are overweight. The Belgian rate for people who are overweight or obese stands at 59.5%, in line with the European average. Men are worse off than women, with a rate of 67.5% compared to 51.4%, respectively. For children this figure is 25.5%, with the European average being 29% for boys and 27% for girls.
The latest figures paint a worrying picture of the state of health in Belgium and show that the situation continues to get worse. A 2019 study by public health institute Sciensano showed that Belgians are increasingly overweight or obese.
This is at the same time as smoking and regular drinking habits are declining. While fewer Belgians picked up smoking or drink regularly, poor diets and a sedentary lifestyle are on the rise.
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The Sciensano study showed that 49.3% of Belgians were overweight and had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more. 15.9% of Belgians were obese with a BMI of 30 or more. People with a BMI between 25 and 30 are labelled as overweight, while a score of 30 or more would make one obese.
These figures contrasted sharply with a similar study in 1997 when only 41.3% of Belgians were overweight and 10.8% were obese.
The almost 10% increase in adult obesity in Belgium is a major concern among health professionals.
Obesity is linked to a string of other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and at least a dozen types of cancer. Excess body fat may lead to premature death and is a leading risk factor for disability, the report states. "Obesity is a disease, not only a risk factor", underlines the WHO.
According to the WHO report, excess weight is causing an estimated 200,000 cases of cancer in the European region each year. In some countries, obesity may soon overtake smoking as the main cause of preventable types of cancer.