“The EU Must declare War on Obesity” Highlights from the Carruba – Nisoli Interview in the European Scientist

“The EU Must declare War on Obesity” Highlights from the Carruba – Nisoli Interview in the European Scientist

We welcome debate and opinion from members interested in engaging others in dialogue around key themes of interest across the fields.

“More than ever, the European institutions need to not just think seriously about how to eliminate this public health crisis, but also take concrete actions to do so.”

EASO is pleased to share these highlights from a recent interview published in the European Scientist about the importance of addressing obesity, particularly during COVID-19.

The full interview is available here:  https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/features/eu-must-declare-war-on-obesity-michele-carruba-and-enzo-nisoli/ 

Professors Enzo Nisoli and Michele Carruba:

We must have the courage to objectively assess the current obesity pandemic to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic even better.

In March 2021, the European Commission issued a brief that defined obesity as a “chronic relapsing disease, which in turn acts as a gateway to a range of other non-communicable diseases”. At least 59% of adults in Europe already live with pre-obesity (i.e., being overweight) or obesity, and an estimated 7% of health costs were being spent treating cases of obesity, which accounted for 10–13% of deaths in different parts of the Region. Despite this situation, state policies have not made a proper and beneficial impact to date.

We in Europe have learned something of importance from Covid-19 in relation to obesity and its impact on our health as a continent.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught that obesity is a very severe disease and that people with obesity are more prone to fatal consequences of viral infections and other diseases. These facts should change our perception of obesity.

European policies have demonstrated success, particularly for the EU Commission’s launch (on 20 April 2021) of the European Parliament’s intergroup on obesity to help national health systems address obesity as a prioritized non-communicable chronic disease.

The EU Commission’s launch of its school fruit, vegetable and milk scheme and the Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy that calls on the food and retail industries to increase the availability and affordability of healthy and sustainable food choices, and the HealthyLifestyle4All campaign, promoting a healthy lifestyle for everyone across all generations and social groups, including children, are all to welcome.These initiatives will have to be implemented and revisited in the years to come, embracing policy interventions prepared to go beyond primary prevention.

Lifestyles and obesity conundrum

Policymakers need to understand that the relationship between lifestyles and obesity is often the reverse of generally believed. It’s not necessarily the case that altered lifestyles cause obesity; on the contrary, obesity itself is in many cases responsible for causing incongruous lifestyle changes. The approach must therefore be cultural and educational.

In this context, the discussion on competing Nutri-Score and NutrInform Battery front-of-pack labelling systems may be an occasion to identify the more flexible and informative instrument — with the most objective scientific evidence and the best profile to inform consumers.

Our recommendations to EU stakeholders in overcoming the unsolved obstacles

consider that the problems we need to address are complex and intertwined with many aspects of our daily lives involved. Our political systems — which should direct the economy and not the other way around — must assume the responsibility for the health of the citizens, who entrust them with the economic, administrative, cultural organization of our societies.

Other tools European citizens and public health bodies need to effectively reverse rising obesity rates

Europe as a whole needs to prioritize prevention and treatment and make significant investments in research and in promoting healthy lifestyles. Without in-depth education starting in early childhood – indeed, from the womb, with increased awareness among mothers planning a pregnancy – we will not even achieve our minimum objectives in the fight against this pandemic, which will last far longer than Covid-19.