medwireNews: The 24th European Congress on Obesity is taking place this week in Porto, Portugal, with key presentations including the findings from the World Health Organization’s Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey.
A persistent problem…
The survey findings confirm that obesity continues to be a major issue for European children and adolescents, at an average prevalence of 4% in boys and girls across all countries in 2014, ranging from 0.7% among 15-year-old girls in Ukraine to 14% among 11-year-old boys in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The overall prevalence of combined overweight and obesity was 19%.
The data were based on self-reported height and weight, however, and the report’s authors note that they “may therefore underestimate the true situation.”
Furthermore, several countries that had a relatively low obesity prevalence in 2002 showed significantly increasing obesity prevalences for both genders and all age groups; these included Russia, Latvia, and Estonia.
Children in the survey took little exercise, particularly girls, with less than a quarter overall achieving recommended levels. Also, daily intake of soft drinks and sweets was very high in many countries, although there were signs of an overall downward trend over time. Intake of fruit and vegetables increased between 2002 and 2014, although the proportion of children consuming these daily remained generally low.
The findings also highlight the effect of social inequalities, with more affluent children overall more likely to consume fruit and vegetables and to take sufficient exercise, although they were also more likely to consume soft drinks and sweets.
…with proven consequences
The report notes that its findings have implications for future adult populations, as well as current children and adolescents, a point highlighted by a study presented at the congress that disputes the “metabolically healthy obese” theory.
The UK study, based on data from 3.5 million people in The Health Improvement Network database, found that obese people with no metabolic abnormalities had a significant 50% increased risk for coronary heart disease and a doubled risk for heart failure, relative to people with a healthy weight. Rishi Caleyachetty (University of Birmingham) and team also found that the risk to obese people increased further with rising number of metabolic abnormalities (diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia).
A quick fix?
Another study presented this week showcased a novel, albeit temporary, weight loss intervention, which operates on the same principles of bariatric surgery, but avoids the risks associated with such interventions in obese patients. Researcher Roberta Ienca and colleagues from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, reported on a gastric balloon that can be swallowed, so requires only a thin catheter to insert and inflate (with 550 mL of liquid).
A total of 38 patients trialled the device, losing 15.2 kg, on average, during the 16 weeks the balloon remained in the stomach, after which it spontaneously opens, empties, and is excreted. During the last 4 weeks of the study, the patients also followed a diet of around 700 kcal/day, to enhance weight loss, after which they were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet.
The researchers reported no adverse effects; however, they did not report longer-term findings, to show whether the patients were able to maintain a stable weight after excretion of the balloon.
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