Posted by: 4pack | July 5, 2008

“Fit Not Fat”: Germany Looks In The Mirror And Wants To Cut The “Waist”


Not to be out done, Germany has eaten, drank, and lazed its masses into matching the American people as the heavyweights of the world—both countries weighing in with the highest numbers of overweight and obese people. According to government statistics, two-thirds of all German men between the ages of 18 and 80 are overweight; almost half of all women have a weight problem, and more than 1 million of their youth show symptoms of eating disorders.

The World Health Organization reports that obesity in European (EU) countries has more than tripled since 1980, with particular risk pointing to the children, now classifying over 21 million of them as obese. The International Association for the Study of Obesity found that among EU countries, Germany out weighted them all, with 58.9 percent of women and 75.4 percent of men tipping the scales at unhealthy levels. These numbers add up to about 37 million adults and 2 million children and teenagers suffering from some kind of weight related disorders.

The German government has embarked on a bulge fighting program—Fit not Fat—prepared by Health Minister Ulla Schmidt in cooperation with Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer. The program’s initiative is to cut diseases related to obesity drastically by the year 2020, and it comes with a cost of 30 million euros ($46.7 million) for the next two years. The government described the fight against obesity and obesity-related illnesses as “one of the biggest political challenges for public health and nutrition in the coming decades.”

In all EU countries the overall consumption of fruits and vegetables is low, the intake of fat is high, and the consumption of cereals has fallen by a quarter since the 1960s. The health ministry bills these poor nutritional habits and lack of exercise as the main contributor for the ever-growing cost of nutrition-related illnesses—amounting to 70 billion euros ($95.3 billion) annually, or 30 percent of Germany’s overall health costs. One in every five women and one in every seven men suffer from chronic back pain caused from being overweight or obese.

Most Germans know what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, they are just not actively pursuing it—”That’s why we need a plan that would involve everybody,” Schmidt said. The government’s battle against the bulge will call on politicians, scientists, health-care providers, unions and the food industry to help educate and promote healthier lifestyle approaches. This would involve education on healthy eating and physical activity, tougher standards on school food programs, better product labeling by the food industry, encouraging game manufacturers to develop products that promote more activity, and reduced advertising by the makers of sweets and junk food that target children.

EU’s top public health official Markos Kyprianou said, ideally he hoped the food companies would voluntarily cut down on sugar, fats and salt, and fully inform consumers about any health risks associated with their products, but stressed that the 2010 review would decide whether strict legislation will be needed. “If we don’t act, today’s overweight children will be tomorrow’s heart attack victims,” said Kyprianou

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