Objectives and recommendations:

EHLA has four objectives in line with the ICCR:

  • 1. Obesity is a marker of unhealthy lifestyle habits: Thus, our obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes are closely linked to our current sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary/drinking habits. Such link should be emphasized at the clinical and public health levels;
  • 2. It is important, so measure it! Waist circumference as a marker of abdominal obesity, nutritional quality and sedentary/physical activity behaviours should be routinely measured as vital signs during the medical visit;
  • 3. Some simple markers of nutritional quality are strong risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Among them, overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is a major risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Such a link between hydration quality and clinical outcomes should be emphasized among health professionals and in public health education campaigns;
  • 4. Regular physical activity/exercise can substantially reduce the dangerous visceral adiposity/ectopic fat depots even in the absence of weight loss in response to a lifestyle modification program. The importance of tackling inactivity and promoting regular physical activity has to be considered in European Union policies to address the obesity epidemic.

EHLA listed its recommendations both for the European citizens and for the EU policy-makers in its manifesto.

What YOU can do:

  • Focus on better quality of food, small diet changes, etc., rather than on caloric restriction and weight loss. Quality beats quantity;
  • Switch to a “Mediterranean type of diet”—it will reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by around 30%;
  • Limit your intake of added sugar and salt;
  • Drink water to hydrate yourself. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages;
  • Perform at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and engage in regular exercise;
  • Measure your waist circumference as a marker of abdominal obesity on top of your BMI. It is a vital sign that should be monitored. Waist loss is better than weight loss as a health outcome. Measure it!

What the EU can do:

What the EU can doPhilippe Roux Head of Unit Health Determinants, European Commission, at the ICCR conference in Brussels on 17 September 2013
banner2Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilinguism and Youth at the ICCR conference in Brussels on 17 September 2013

  • Promote the overall health benefits of regular physical activity, even in the absence of weight loss, in clinical practice, schools, workplaces, public life, etc.;
  • Actively promote hydration with water;
  • Regulate new food labelling that will highlight calories, added sugar and salt;
  • Promote an EU-wide campaign focusing on nutritional quality and on healthy eating rather than on caloric restriction, and making hydration with water a component of nutritional quality;
  • Actively implement the EU Childhood Obesity Action Plan;
  • Promote both waist measurement and BMI, as a routine medical evaluation across the EU: Launch a “Measure it!” campaign;
  • Include scientific facts in integrated policy-making;

  • Design a study to collect standardised data on biological and behavioural risk factors across the EU;
  • Promote the exchange of best practices in the EU;
  • Open up existing European research programmes and launch new ones that will coherently focus on the fight against obesity;
  • Increase the investment in prevention: only 3% of the health budget is currently dedicated to prevention;
  • Introduce EU-wide taxes on soda and/or added sugar;
  • Appoint EU “Healthy Lifestyle Ambassadors” and promote a EU Healthy Lifestyle Week;
  • Establish an informal healthy lifestyle group (physical activity, nutrition) in the European Parliament.