22.05.2018 One in every four Austrian adolescents too heavy
– poor role models leading to fatter children

Familie vor TV

Overweight and obesity are a huge global issue. By 2025 the number of overweight adults is set to reach 2.7 billion, with a further 177 million clinically obese. In Austria, one in four adolescents is too fat, with each new generation surpassing the previous one when it comes to obesity levels. In response to the crisis, the European Congress on Obesity from 23-26 May will be focusing on combating childhood and adolescent obesity, and on the need for appropriate adult role models to keep it in check.

At present, more than 30% of women and 50% of men in Austria are overweight – a total of almost 3.5 million Austrians. 10.7% of women and 13.4% of men are categorised as obese,” explained Prof. Friedrich Hoppichler, President of the Austrian Obesity Society. But there is worse to come: by 2025 the number of overweight adults is set to reach 2.7 billion, with a further 177 million morbidly obese and in need of treatment as a result. “Obesity is a chronic disease that has now reached pandemic proportions, leading the WHO to declare it the largest chronic health problem facing society today,” Hoppichler confirmed.  

Sugar and lack of exercise the main causes of obesity
Worldwide overconsumption of high-energy foodstuffs coupled with decreased levels of physical activity in light of continued urbanisation have been identified as the main factors behind the high numbers of overweight and obese patients. The effects of sugar, particularly hidden sugar in soft drinks and other foods, should not be underestimated. “Over the past 10 years, global consumption of sugary drinks has increased by around a third,” Hoppichler explained.  

Serious secondary diseases and shorter life expectancy
“Treating obesity is important as the condition leads to numerous comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, degenerative joint diseases and mental health issues,” the expert noted. Obesity is also associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease, stroke and cancer. As a result, obesity patients can generally expect to have a shorter life expectancy.  

One in every four Austrian adolescents too heavy
At present, the problem is particularly acute among children and adolescents. “According to the latest figures released by the Special Institute for Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition (SIPCAN), one in four children aged 14 in Vienna and Tyrol is classified as overweight,” Hoppichler explained. In Austria, 40,000 children and adolescents aged 10-18 are obese. The WHO believes that one in three boys and one in three to five girls is overweight or obese. “This is an important reason for this year’s obesity congress at the Austria Center Vienna to focus on the effects of the condition on children,” the President of the Austrian Obesity Society added.  

Children suffering from secondary diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis at an early age  
Overweight and obese children face significant health complications. Adult-onset diabetes is increasingly emerging in young children. Aged just five, the youngest patient recorded to date was from Germany, and not the USA as many might believe. Liver disease, vascular inflammation, atherosclerosis and sex hormone imbalances are also not uncommon in patients. 

Healthy diet from the outset
“Adults are role models for children,” Hoppichler explained. And this starts when the baby is in the mother’s womb. Expectant mothers should make sure that they do not gain excessive weight, as this could give their unborn child a predilection for consuming fat and sugar. “Breast feeding has been shown to have a preventive effect, and when moving over to solids, parents should make sure that their children do not take on too much animal protein, while introducing them to as many different types of vegetable as early as possible,” Hoppichler advised. Avoiding excess intake of protein is also important in toddlers. There is a tendency for small children to eat too many dairy, meat and processed meat products. Consumption of sweets and sugary drinks also increases in the 12-36 months age category. 

“We can see that products loaded with sugar and fat tend to be the cheapest and, as a result, the most appealing for older children and adolescents,” said Hoppichler. Fast food and sugary drinks are a problem among adolescents in particular. And testimonials by high-profile sportspeople make them even more desirable. “This makes it all the more important for parents and guardians to embrace their responsibilities as role models, and try to gently nudge their children in the direction of healthier products,” Hoppichler stressed.  

Strategies for children inclined to excess weight gain
“First of all, families should look at their internal dynamics to shed light on what is really fuelling specific attitudes to eating, drinking and exercise,” Hoppichler explained. Ideally, tap water or unsweetened fruit or herbal tea should be offered if a child is thirsty. Processed foods should be avoided by preparing meals from scratch. There should also be a preference for food that requires a large amount of chewing so that the body has enough time to register feeling full. “Possible medical causes such as an underactive thyroid or Cushing syndrome should also be looked into in parallel,” he cautioned. A general practitioner or the child’s paediatrician can be called on for support. The Austrian Obesity Society has also set up a support network to help put people in touch with the necessary professionals: www.adipositasnetzwerk.at.

Press release
Friedrich Hoppichler, President of the Austrian Obesity Society(c) Hoppichler
Unhealthy food and lifestyle within families(c) IAKW-AG, iStock, IPGGutenberg UKLtd
Sugary drink(c) IAKW-AG, iStock,kwanchaichaiudom

About the ECO Congress
The European Congress on Obesity will take place at the Austria Center Vienna from 23-26 May. Due to attract more than 1,500 researchers and specialists, it is the second time that the congress is being held in Vienna. The central topics of the congress are the development and treatment of obesity. The Austrian Obesity Society would like to express its gratitude to the Austrian members of the scientific committee and Prof. Hermann Toplak (Graz) and Prof. Bernhard Ludvik (Vienna) in particular for their work in bringing the congress to Austria.

Internationales Amtssitz- und Konferenzzentrum Wien, Aktiengesellschaft (IAKW-AG) is responsible for maintaining the Vienna International Centre (VIC) and operating the Austria Center Vienna (ACV). The Austria Center Vienna is Austria’s largest conference centre, with 24 halls, 180 meeting rooms, and some 22,000m² of exhibition space, and is one of the top players on the international conference circuit. Visit www.acv.at for additional information.   

IAKW-AG – Austria Center Vienna
Claudia Reis
Deputy Press Officer
Tel: +43-676 3199-523
Email: claudia.reis@acv.at