When you think of British women, who comes to mind? Maybe Princess Diana, Victoria Beckham, Keira Knightley. All are women from the United Kingdom, and all of them are known for their figures. But new research has found that their slender bodies are not the norm; in fact, the U.K. was determined to be home to the highest number of obese women in all of Europe. Congratulations, U.K.! With just a little more effort you'll soon pass Mexico and be ready to make a run at United States, in the pole position.
Statistics pulled together by researchers at a European Union agency called Eurostat painted an unhealthy picture. They examined the records from the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) of both men and women from 19 countries across Europe. Between 2008 and 2009, almost one-quarter of women in the U.K. were obese -- 23.9 percent. And it looks like their husbands are keeping up with them meal for meal: more than 22 percent of the men in the U.K. are obese as well. The males only missed out on the honor of first place in European obesity by ranking second to Malta, at 24.7 percent.1
To qualify as obese, a person must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 30. This is a calculation based on your height and body weight. While not a perfect measurement of body fat (it doesn't take large quantities of muscle into consideration, so some athletes have BMI's that would put them into overweight or obese categories), it nevertheless is a somewhat useful assessment tool for most of the population.
The next countries with the highest numbers of obese women were Malta, which had 21.1 percent, and Latvia, with 20.9 percent. For men, the nations following after Malta and the U.K. were Hungary, with 21.4 percent obesity, and the Czech Republic, which had an 18.4 percent level.
On the bright side, some countries in the European Union did much better. The lowest numbers, for both women and men, were found in Romania. In that nation, 8 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men met the standards for obesity. Other countries found to have markedly lower levels of obesity were Italy, with 9.3 percent of women and 11.3 percent of men, Bulgaria, with 11.3 percent of women and 11.6 percent of men, and France, with 12.7 percent of women and 11.7 percent of men.
The researchers were able to determine that in each of the countries analyzed, the percentage of overweight and obese individuals rises with age. This is troubling first of all because we are clearly not doing enough to motivate our senior citizens to eat healthfully and exercise regularly, but also because the population in general is aging. If obesity rates overall are rising and the percentage of obese people increases with age, we may soon be faced with half our seniors classified as obese -- and paying for all the health problems that go along with it. That is, unless those health problems -- which are many -- cut their life spans short. Heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer have all been linked with obesity in numerous studies.
And it's not just the European Union that is having weight issues. Countries all over the world have rising obesity rates. As already mentioned, the United States is the world leader in this area. A 2005 report by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) found that two-thirds of American adults are overweight and that the prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults has increased about 50 percent per decade since 1980.2 There are estimates that obesity causes about 300,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. And more recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 showed that if the current trends in obesity continue, by 2020, nearly half the U.S. population (45 percent) will be obese. It currently stands at about 31%.
It is clearly time for people all over the world to start doing something to lose weight and improve their quality of life. Even starting with small changes, taking one baby step at a time, will make a big difference over the long run. Because a lifetime faced with obesity and illness is no future to look forward to. Check out our links to articles on Natural Weight Control.
1 undefined. "UK women are ‘fattest in Europe'." BBC News. 26 November 2011. BBC. 5 January 2012. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15901351>.
2 Dollemore, Doug. "Obesity Threatens to Cut U.S. Life Expectancy, New Analysis Suggests." NIH News. 16 March 2005. National Institutes of Health. 5 January 2012. <http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/mar2005/nia-16.htm>.