Reduction of overweight and obesity The calculations presented show that the maximum health gains achievable through the reduction of overweight are no greater than those to be made through the improvement of dietary composition. Nevertheless, there are various reasons for tackling the problem of overweight as a matter of the greatest urgency.
We see an unfavourable trend: the prevalence of overweight and obesity continues to increase, the rise being greatest among children and young people, which would suggest an even more acute problem in the future. Secondly, the seriousness of the obesity problem has long been underestimated, despite the scientific community having drawn attention to the upward trend in the 1980s.
Only in the last few years attention has been devoted to overweight at the national and international political level. Thirdly, it would appear that the health loss which can be obviated by means of feasible weightrelated interventions is relatively small (approximately 25% of the total). A major societal effort will therefore be required to ensure that the prevalence of overweight in the Netherlands does not rise further, and to avoid reaching the situation that can already be seen in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Promotion of a healthy composition of the diet It would not be appropriate to base policy solely on the reduction of overweight. A proper composition of fatty acids in the diet, regular fish consumption, and an adeOUR FOOD, OUR HEALTH PART A 35 quate intake of fruit and vegetables can do just as much in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, quite aside from the considerations of achieving a proper bodyweight.
There are also a number of vulnerable groups, such as the very young and the very old, who face specific dietary problems which must be addressed separately. For example, very few babies under three months are now breastfed. And there is also some undernutrition among the elderly, with resulting vitamin and mineral deficiencies.