68 percent of men and 54 percent of women are forecast to be overweight in 15 years. Photo: Colourbox
Denmark is among Europe’s healthiest countries but an obesity forecast exercise conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the number of Danes who are overweight or obese is set to explode by 2030.
The WHO results show that 27 percent of Danish men will be obese by 2030 as will 26 percent of Danish women.
The proportion of Danish men who qualify as overweight is forecast to go from 57 percent to 68 percent, while women will see an even bigger jump, going from 42 percent to 54 percent overweight.
"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 Sweden's Uppsala University, told The Local.
He is leading research on some of the other possible factors behind growing obesity in Sweden and 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.
While the forecast might want to make Danes start cutting down on the hot dogs and pastries, the WHO stressed that it is not too late to turn the tide.
"These projections are the result of a forecast exercise conducted by the UK Health Forum for WHO Regional Office for Europe some time ago and present a bleak picture of an obese future for many countries in Europe, if action is not taken,” Dr Joao Breda from the WHO Regional Office for Europe said from Copenhagen.
"Action taken today can prevent these predictions from becoming reality and in some European countries the trend is already flattening off thanks to preventative measures including successes, for example, in the area of childhood obesity,” Breda added.
Even if the worst case scenarios do play out, Denmark will still be significantly healthier than many European countries.
In Ireland, already the fattest nation in the EU, some 91 percent of males and 83 percent of females will be overweight in 2030. In Kazakhstan, a whopping 74 percent of the male population is predicted to be obese by 2030.
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.
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.
The WHO study is set to be presented at a European Congress on Obesity in Prague later this week.