Norway’s men soon to be among Europe’s fattest

Norwegian men might want to cut down on the sticky cinnamon buns if a new WHO report is anything to go by. A shocking 76 percent will be overweight by 2030, up from 58 percent in 2010.

Norway's men soon to be among Europe's fattest
Is this the way Norway's headed? An overweight man on a beach in Florida. Photo: Kyle May/Flickr
Norway is currently one of Europe's least overweight countries, with men ranking 20th out of the 34 European and Former Soviet Union countries surveyed, and women ranking 25th. 
But  the authors of the report, which is set to be presented at a European Congress on Obesity in Prague,
fear that the Nordic nation is fast catching up with other parts of the continent, where growing numbers of overweight and obese people are struggling with sickness and disability.
"Even in countries with a traditionally lower prevalence of obesity…obesity rates are predicted to rise sharply," the report said. 
Norwegian Women do better than the men. Only 53 percent are set to be overweight in 2030, but that still represents a jump from 38 percent in 2010. 
A previous report by the WHO in 2013 suggested that 19.9 percent of men were obese and 17.3 percent of women. 
"First of all people's lifestyles are changing – they are becoming sedentary and their eating habits are also changing," Peter Bergsten, a professor of medicine and cellular biology at Uppsala University told The Local.
He is leading research on some of the other possible factors behind growing obesity around Europe, including genetic predisposition to weight gain and hormonal imbalances.
"Migration to the EU and between different countries is also an issue because it is making regional patterns less clear," he added.
"Europe is becoming more homogeneous, with different ethnicities appearing in all countries, and so there are more varied diets appearing in different nations…fewer differences between individual nations."
The professor said that while researchers in his field were keen to avoid fuelling prejudices against different ethnicities, "it has been reported that hispanics for example have a genetic predisposition to becoming more obese than caucasians."
People with a BMI (body weight index, a ratio of weight to height) of 25 and higher are officially classified as overweight by the WHO and those with 30 and over are obese.
Ireland is currently the fattest nation in the EU.
Some 89 percent of Irish men will be overweight by 2030, and nearly half obese, the latest WHO study predicts.
Meanwhile it suggested that 64 percent of UK women and 74 percent of men would be overweight in 15 years' time.
The Dutch are the thinnest people in Europe according to the study.
About 49 percent of men will be overweight and eight percent obese by 2030, compared to 54 percent and 10 percent in 2010. For women, overweight rates will remain stable at around 43 to 44 percent, while obesity is likely to drop from 13 percent to nine percent.
A study last November by the McKinsey Global Institute said more than 2.1 billion people globally – nearly 30 percent of the world population – are now overweight or obese, with obesity causing about five percent of all deaths worldwide.


WHO to set up pandemic data hub in Berlin

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday it would set up a global data hub in Berlin to analyse information on emerging pandemic threats, filling the gaps exposed by Covid-19.

WHO to set up pandemic data hub in Berlin
Angela Merkel on May 5th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AFP Pool | John Macdougall

The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, which will start operating later this year, is set to analyse data quickly and in detail, in order to predict, prevent, detect, prepare for and respond to risks worldwide.

The hub will try to get ahead of the game, looking for pre-signals that go far beyond current systems that monitor publicly available information for signs of emerging outbreaks.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in the global systems for pandemic and epidemic intelligence,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists.

“There will be more viruses that will emerge with the potential for sparking epidemics or pandemics.

“Viruses move fast. But data can move even faster. With the right information, countries and communities can stay one step ahead of an emerging risk and save lives.”

READ ALSO: ‘We are still in the third wave’: German Health Minister urges caution in reopening after shutdown

Merging digital, health expertise

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin was a good location for the hub as it already had leading players in the digital and health fields, such as the Robert Koch Institute.

“If that expertise is now supplemented by the WHO Hub, we will create a unique environment for pandemic and health research here in Berlin – an environment from which important action-oriented insights will emerge for governments and leaders around the world,” she said in a video message.

It is hoped that the site will be operational from September. Its budget is still under discussion, while Germany will meet the start-up costs.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the world needed the capacity to detect outbreaks with the potential to become health crises “before the threat becomes a sad reality”.

Global systems were currently “insufficiently prepared” to handle the risks posed by outbreaks, mutations of existing pathogens, extensions of diseases to previously unaffected populations, and diseases jumping species from animals to humans, he added.

“There’s a clear need for a stronger global early warning alert and emergency response system with improved public health intelligence,” he said.

“Better data and better analytics are key for better decisions.”

 Looking for pre-signals

“There are signals that may occur before epidemics happen… data that can give us pre-signals,” said WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan. That information could drive early decision-making, he added.

“The Hub will allow us to develop tools for that sort of predictive analytics,” he said.

A joint mission by international and Chinese scientists concluded in March that the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 disease most likely passed to humans from a bat via an intermediary animal.

The experts’ report suggested the outbreak could have started as far back as September 2019, long before it was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan.

The WHO only became aware of the new coronavirus on December 31st that year, when its epidemic intelligence service and its China office spotted a media report and a mention by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission of a mysterious cluster of pneumonia cases.

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed at least 3.2 million people and more than 154 million cases have been registered worldwide since then, according to tallies from official sources compiled by AFP.