DietFitnessFoodHealthMind & BodyNutrition

Only through firm action to tackle overweight can any substantial health gains be made

The results of small-scale experiments suggest that an average weight loss of three kilograms per person (1 BMI unit) is possible. The health gain that such a weight reduction would yield is in the order of one quarter of the maximum incidence of mortality and morbidity attributable to overweight (see figure 3). However, the current trend runs in the opposite direction.

Over the past 15 years, average bodyweight has actually increased by three kilograms and the number of persons with obesity, in particular, will continue to rise. The policy objective is to at least stabilize the current level of overweight, thus curbing the trend. The health loss that will be avoided in this manner is also in the order of one quarter of the current maximum incidence of mortality and morbidity attributable to overweight.

Compared to the health gains to be made under the middle scenarios for dietary composition, that achieved by reducing overweight will be less marked. Overweight is therefore a more difficult problem to counter than an unfavorable dietary composition. g. Without interventions it is unlikely that the Dutch will eat more healthily in the future Experts predict that the current trends in eating habits and in the types of food available on the market will continue for the coming 5 to 10 years (see textbox 1).

Despite a growing number of new foods which are appropriate to a healthy diet, the overall range of products available will not become any healthier due to the even greater increase in unhealthy products. Consumers will buy more ‘convenience foods’ and the consumption of snacks, larger portions and products which are energy-dense will continue to rise.

 

Expectations are that the unfavorable effects will dominate. Children, teenagers and people with a lower socio-economic status will form a high-risk group. This relates to the over-consumption of energy-dense products which contain few other nutrients and are made particularly attractive by their strong sweet or salty flavor.

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Moreover, healthy food is generally more expensive. Without active social pressure to reverse these trends, an adverse effect on public health may be expected, especially in terms of the number of people suffering from overweight and various chronic diseases.

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