Combating obesity and digestive pathologies

Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases have prepared a report warning of the increasing incidence of obesity in European countries. Currently, it is estimated that 52% of the population over 18 years of age suffers from obesity or overweight, which is why the respective governments are urged to try to promote healthy lifestyle habits that help prevent these pathologies.

In Spain, the figures are not so alarming, although there is still room for improvement:

  • Obese men: 22.8%.
  • Obese women: 20%.
  • Obese boys: 32.3%.
  • Obese girls: 29.5%.

What is the reason for this alarming increase in obesity?

This increase is largely due to the lack of food education we have. Our diets are mostly based on ultra-processed foods, with which we have developed in Europe a high rate of chronic diseases, digestive tumors, functional gastrointestinal disorders and obesity, among other disorders.

What exactly are ultra-processed foods?

Ultraprocessed foods are industrially produced from unhealthy refined ingredients such as sugar, starches, salt, additives or vegetable oils. Most of them are ready to eat without cooking and have poor nutritional values. Nevertheless, their consumption is so high due to their high palatability.

According to the report, these foods account for more than half of the calorie intake of the European population, reaching 61% in the case of Spain. On the other hand, although there is no reliable evidence in this regard, it is believed that the increase in ultra-processed foods could be closely linked to the increase in cancer cases in recent years. So much so that it is thought that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods raises the risk of cancer by 12%.

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In terms of obese children, Spain ranks fourth in Europe, behind Malta, Italy and Croatia. This is a consequence of having replaced the Mediterranean diet with ultra-processed foods. However, it is estimated that only one in three Spanish children has obesity, while in southern Europe it is much more prevalent.

What does the Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases report propose?

The aim is to design a European plan to reduce the risk and impact of digestive pathologies.

Limit unhealthy products by reducing:

  • Up to 10% of the total energy intake from sugar.
  • Up to 10% of the daily intake of saturated fats.
  • Up to 1% of the daily caloric intake from trans fats.
  • Less than 5 grams of salt per day.

Adopt healthy lifestyle habits to achieve a balanced diet through:

  • Breastfeeding.
  • A diet rich in fiber and sufficient plant foods.
  • The Mediterranean diet as a dietary pattern.
  • Intake of at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Consumption of foods rich in folic acid, calcium and vitamin D.