While Europe is getting fatter, the Netherlands is getting thinner. It’s the only country in which the World Health Organisation (WHO) is predicting a decline in obesity rates.
The organisation’s recent obesity report predicts 49% of Dutch men will be overweight, and 8% obese, in 2030 — compared to 54% and 10% in 2010.
The overweight rates for women are expected to remain stable at about 43%, though obesity is set to drop from 13% to 9%.
Out of the 53 countries featured in the WHO report, the Netherlands is the only one to buck the growing obesity epidemic trend. So how are they doing it?
Reports suggest the while the Dutch eat more salt and fat than Irish people, and generally consume less vegetables, they combat this by exercising more — only one in five does not get enough physical activity.
The Netherlands is a country famous for cycling — more than a quarter of all journeys are completed on a bicycle.
According to professor Donal O’Shea, head of weight management at St Columcille’s and St Vincent’s Hospitals in Dublin, the Dutch “just have a different attitude to physical activity”.
While genetics also play a part — people from the Netherlands are generally quite tall — Prof O’Shea said obesity was still mainly an environmental problem that the Irish have yet to tackle effectively.
“We need the healthy Ireland Framework aggressively rolled out,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“This is what we have been asking for in the obesity area for probably 15 years — top leadership to address what is a much bigger health problem than cholera was back in the 1800s, than HIV and AIDS was back in the 80s and 90s.”
Meanwhile, the WHO has projected that 89% of men and 85% of women in this country will be overweight in 15 years.
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