Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Overweight and obesity in infants and pre-school children in the European Union

As part of the Health promotion through Obesity Prevention across Europe (HOPE) study, Prof. Adriano Cattaneo and collegues have conducted a systematic review on overweight and obesity prevalence and trends in countries within the European Union. The paper based on this review was recently published as e-pub ahead of print in the journal Obesity Reviews.

The data sources used in the review included WHO databases, Medline and Google, as well as data derived through contact with authors of published and unpublished documents. Data were analysed using the International Obesity Task Force reference
and cut-offs, as well as the WHO standard. The authors were able to derive data from 18 of the 27 countries. Comparisons between countries were problematic because of
different definitions and methods used in the varios reviewed studies.

The reported prevalence of overweight plus obesity at 4 years ranged from 11.8% in Romania to 32.3% in Spain. Countries in the Mediterranean region and the British islands reported the highest rates. Rates were generally higher in girls than in
boys. With the possible exception of England, there was no obvious trend towards increasing prevalence in the past 20–30 years in the five countries that had some trend data available.
The authors conclude that data on overweight and obesity in pre-school children are scarce and their interpretation difficult. Standard methods of surveillance, and research and policies on prevention and treatment, are urgently needed.