Tightening the belt on Europe’s obesity epidemic – ISA supports the objectives of European Obesity Day 2014

Posted: 18 May 2014

Brussels 18 May 2014: European Obesity Day is an important reminder to people about the obesity epidemic and what measures are in place to help slow it down.

The number of people suffering from obesity and associated maladies, such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Hypertension is at epidemic proportions throughout the world. Today, obesity is one of the most pressing public health concerns for governments, of which Europe is not immune. More than half (52%) of the adult population in the European Union is overweight or obese according to the OECD1, and if unhalted, mortality from these diseases will increase to 8.6 million deaths per year by 2015.2

The cost of treating obesity and associated impacts, including lost productivity from days taken off, is also considerable. Health is the second biggest sector of spending after social protection and according to 2011 Eurostat data, public health expenditure amounted to 15% of total government expenditure, 78% of which was chronic diseases related.3

In this context, the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) fully supports the objectives of the European Obesity Day and its ongoing mission to raise awareness around obesity, whilst highlighting simple yet effective everyday measures that can help manage excess weight related issues. The ISA believes that low calorie sweeteners play a key role in helping to address the public health agenda, and that the foods in which they are present have the benefit of providing consumers with choice, and enable them to reduce their overall caloric intake and improve their dietary choices, while still enjoying sweet tastes.

Experts who recently spoke at the ISA conference in April highlighted, unequivocally, the role and benefits of low calorie sweeteners in helping to address 21st century diseases and lifestyles. “We have found that low calorie sweeteners are actually a proxy for a healthy diet – users of low calorie sweeteners also eat a healthier, balanced diet and are more physically active”, added, Professor Adam Drewnowski, world-renowned leader in the prevention and treatment of obesity, from the University of Washington.

The good news is that with the right education, obesity can be addressed through some simple lifestyle adjustments, such as more regular exercise and by making smart swaps, from higher calorie to lower calorie choices each day. By providing sweetness without the calories, low calorie sweetened options can make a useful contribution to a healthy, calorie-controlled diet.

1 Health at a Glance: Overweight and obesity among adults. OECD iLibrary, 2012. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/9789264183896-en/02/07/index.html?itemId=/content/chapter/9789264183896-26-en
2 Reducing the burden of chronic disease in Europe by focusing on health outcomes Joe Jimenez, CEO Novartis Speech - EU Chronic Health Summit – Friday, 4 April 2014
3 European Commission, DG Health and Consumers, presentation Michael Hübel, November 2013