It appears that the obesity epidemic sweeping the United States is quickly spreading around the globe and now it has Europe in its caloric crosshairs. A recent joint study by the UK Health Forum and the World Health Organization proclaim that by 2030, 85% of European women and 89% of European men will be overweight, with 57% of women and 48% of men being obese.
The study examined 53 European countries. Leading the way in these "hefty" figures were Spain, Greece, Austria and Sweden, but one small island appears to be pulling ahead of the pack: Ireland.
Figures from a 2010 survey of Ireland show a whopping 74% of overweight men, with 26% classified as obese. Among women, over half are overweight (57%), with almost a quarter of all women (23%) being classified as obese. And if their forecasts prove true, the number of obese women in Ireland will more than double by 2030.
Studies project that in just 15 years, Ireland will overtake other European nations as the most obese country in the region. And like the US and elsewhere, the culprits are the ever-expanding portions of calorie-rich foods, combined with alcohol consumption and lack of exercise.
"We already have a devastating problem with obesity. It could mean we will follow the United States where one in three Americans born in the year 2000 will have diabetes by the time they are 50," endocrinologist and obesity expert with the University Hospital in Galway, Dr. Francis Finucane says. "That is staggering. This data here suggests the problem is getting worse in Ireland as well."
Not all European countries, however, share such dire predictions. The Netherlands stand alone in their ability to combat obesity, predicting less than half of Dutch men overweight by 2030 and a paltry 8% obese, despite their current rates of 54% overweight and 10% obese. Among Dutch women, their current rate of 43% overweight is expected to remain stable, yet their rosy outlook predicts the percentage of obese women will fall from its current 13% to 9% in the next 15 years.
If the Dutch numbers hold, I hope they let the rest of the world in on their secret.