UEG press release

Millions of Europeans at risk of chronic digestive diseases, new report reveals

Mai 21, 2019

Millions of Europeans at risk of chronic digestive diseases, new report reveals

(Vienna, May 21, 2019) Poor nutritional choices, including a high intake of ultra-processed foods and trans-fats, are putting millions of Europeans at an increased risk of a range of chronic digestive diseases, including digestive cancers, wheat related disorders and functional GI disorders, as well as obesity, a new report shows. 

‘Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases’, launched today by United European Gastroenterology (UEG) and supported by twelve medical associations, patient organisations and NGOs, canvasses the opinion of a number of leading experts in the fields of nutrition, digestive cancers, liver diseases, functional gastrointestinal disorders and paediatrics. 

The Ultra-processed Food Endemic:
The report outlines how ultra-processed foods, which are often high in fat, added sugar and salt, now frequently contribute to up to half of modern European energy intake and, in some countries, over 75% of mean energy intake. 

Consumption of ultra-processed foods has dramatically increased in recent decades, with common examples including soft drinks, confectionary, crisps and frozen ready meals. Studies have shown that the consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with an increased risk of cancer and suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of these food types may be driving the growing cancer burden. A 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet, for example, is associated with a 12% increased overall cancer risk. 

In addition to a raised risk of chronic diseases, high consumption of these foods also increases the prevalence of obesity. Alarmingly, over half (52%) of the EU’s population aged 18 and over is now overweight or obese and 1 in 3 of Europe’s school children are estimated to be overweight.

“Obesity, often driven by poor nutritional choices, increases the risk of a range of serious digestive health conditions and causes a significant healthcare burden, high societal costs, misery for patients and, ultimately, shortens lives”, explains Professor Markus Peck, Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Klinikum Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, Austria. “Healthy balanced diets and lifestyles can help prevent chronic digestive diseases but the difficulty we face is ensuring our citizens make the right choices in following these lifestyles.”

An Action Plan for Europe:
The report makes a number of recommendations in order to reduce the risk and impact of chronic digestive diseases, including: 

  • Less than 10% (<50 grams), but ideally 5%, of total daily energy intake of sugar
  • Less than 10% of total daily energy intake of saturated fats
  • Less than 1% of total daily energy intake of trans-fats
  • Less than 5g of salt per day

“We need the European Commission and national governments to act now on initiatives to change the way in which we buy and consume food”, states Professor Peck. “Our aim should be to achieve a European-wide transformation to healthy diets by 2050. This would require the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to be reduced by more than 50% over the next 30 years.” 

“If we are to fight the burgeoning prevalence of overweight, obese and unhealthy people in Europe, and the healthcare burden and loss of life that it brings, then we must act now”, concludes Professor Peck.  

% Adult Obesity Rates in Europe (*self-report data)

Country

Male Obesity %

Female Obesity %

Malta

36.9

31.3

Romania

29.4

34.1

Greece

27.9

25.6

England

27.4

30

Cyprus

27

28.8

Scotland

27

30

Ireland (Northern)

26

27

Ireland (Republic)

25.8

21.3

Portugal

25.5

32

Italy

24.5

24.9

Poland

24.2

23.4

Luxembourg

24.1

21

Czech Republic

23.9

22.3

Germany

23.3

23.9

Spain

22.8

20.5

Hungary*

22

20.4

Wales*

22

23

Slovenia *

21

17.4

Croatia

20.7

16.8

Finland

20.4

19

Estonia*

19.1

21.5

Latvia*

18.8

23.3

Slovakia

18.1

15.9

France

16.8

17.4

Sweden

15.5

14.4

Denmark *

14.1

15.6

Belgium

13.9

14.2

Austria

13.4

10.7

Bulgaria

13.4

19.2

Lithuania

11.3

15.2

Netherlands

10.4

10.1

  

% Childhood Overweight Rates in Europe (*self-report data)

Country

Male Overweight %

Female Overweight %

Malta

43.2

38.7

Croatia

38.7

31

Italy

37.2

34.7

Spain

32.3

29.5

Cyprus

31.5

25.6

Greece

31

29.1

Portugal

30.9

32

Bulgaria

30.4

28.3

Denmark*

29.3

21.1

England

28.6

29

Ireland (Northern)

28

25

Austria

28

25.9

Slovenia*

27.4

22.7

Wales*

27.1

27

Latvia*

25

21

Romania

24.6

22.6

Germany

24.2

23.8

Scotland

24

29

Finland

23.8

20.1

Czech Republic

23

20

Luxembourg

23

22

Slovakia

22.6

20.7

Sweden

22.6

21.2

Lithuania

21.4

19.9

Hungary*

21.4

23.7

Poland

20.8

14.4

Belgium

16.9

13.5

Netherlands

16.8

15.4

Ireland (Republic)

16

19

France

14.4

18.7

Estonia*

13.6

14.9

Notes to Editors

For further information, or to arrange an expert interview, please contact Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or media@ueg.eu

About the Report

Access ‘Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases: An Action Plan for Europe’

The report was produced by UEG, with support and endorsement from:

  • The Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS)
  • Digestive Cancers Europe (DiCE)
  • The European Association for Gastroenterology, Endoscopy and Nutrition (EAGEN)
  • The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL)
  • The European Cancer Organisation (ECCO)
  • The European Federation of Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Associations (EFCCA)
  • The European Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group (EHMSG)
  • The European Society of Digestive Oncology (ESDO)
  • The European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM)
  • The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN)
  • The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN)
  • The World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO)

About Professor Markus Peck
Professor Markus Peck is the Chairman at the Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology (IMuG) at Klinikum Klagenfurt am Wörthersee in Klagenfurt, Austria. He is the Chair of the UEG Public Affairs Committee.

About UEG

UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European medical specialist and national societies focusing on digestive health. Together, its member societies represent over 30,000 specialists, working across medicine, surgery, paediatrics, gastrointestinal oncology and endoscopy. This makes UEG the most comprehensive organisation of its kind in the world, and a unique platform for collaboration and the exchange of knowledge.

To advance the standards of gastroenterological care and knowledge across the world and to reduce the burden of digestive diseases, UEG offers numerous activities and initiatives, including:

  • UEG Week, the biggest congress of its kind in Europe, and one of the two largest in the world
  • UEG Education, the universal source of knowledge in gastroenterology, providing online and classroom courses, a huge online library and delivering the latest GI news, fostering debate and discussion
  • Activity Grants, promoting and funding educational projects in the field of digestive health to advance and harmonise the training and continuing education of professionals
  • UEG Journal, covering translational and clinical studies from all areas of gastroenterology
  • Public Affairs, promoting research, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases, and helping develop an effective health policy for Europe
  • Quality of Care, European-based and English clinical practice guidelines, clinical standards, consensus, position papers and standard protocols in the field of digestive health, are available in the repository. 

Find out more about UEG’s work by visiting www.ueg.eu or contact:              

Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or media@ueg.eu

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