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EU asks public for help in tackling rise in obesity By Jeremy SmithThu Dec 8, 6:39 AM ET
Europe's health chief issued a public invitation on Thursday to find concrete ideas for tackling an alarming rise in obesity, especially among children, by promoting healthy diets coupled with more physical exercise.
Views on how to make fruits and vegetables more attractive to consumers, as well as improving the nutritional value of school meals, are included in an extensive European Commission survey that aims to curb Europeans' expanding waistlines.
"More than 400,000 children are estimated to become overweight every year and today's overweight teenagers are tomorrow's heart attack or diabetes victims," EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said.
In the 25-nation EU, up to 27 percent of men and 38 percent of women are now considered to be obese, with almost one in four children seen as overweight. Obesity also accounts for up to 7 percent of health care costs across the bloc.
The problem is worst in southern countries, as traditionally healthy Mediterranean diets give way to processed foods rich in fat, sugar and salt -- although Poland and Britain have also seen steep rises in child obesity in recent years.
Spain, Portugal and Italy report obesity levels above 30 percent in children aged between 7 and 11, the Commission says.
The Commission's public consultation will run until March, with a report summarizing the findings due by June.
It pays special attention to food offered to children in schools, saying it is "vital that children be guided toward healthy behaviors" and requesting views on the "excessive intake of energy-dense and sugar-sweetened soft drinks."
Other areas include ways of presenting nutrition information to consumers and whether national self-regulation on advertising foods that are energy-dense and poor in micronutrients is enough for EU governments to reverse the Europe's obesity trend.