Obesity levels in Ireland have reached “epidemic proportions” affecting up to a fifth of all adults and resulting in 2,000 premature deaths annually, according to experts.
In a joint statement issued today, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), the Diabetes Federation of Ireland and healthcare firm GlaxoSmithKline said the cost of treating obesity in Ireland was now more than €400 million a year.
Their statement is designed to raise awareness of the issue ahead of European Obesity Day on Saturday.
IPU president Darragh O’Loughlin said an ongoing awareness programme was needed to ensure people are continually warned about the dangers of excessive consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt and also of the benefits of regular exercise.
“While the population may be aware of the benefits of healthy eating, evidence would tend to suggest that they may not be aware of the dangers of regular consumption of fatty foods and snacks,” he said.
Anna Clarke of the Diabetes Federation of Ireland said: “Being overweight increases your risk of developing several serious health problems such as Type II diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
The spread of Type II diabetes is a serious risk in this county - the incidence of Type II diabetes is currently rising by at least 3.7 per cent annually,” Dr Clarke said.
She said obesity is endemic in Ireland and this has major implications for future population health and health service provision.
Recent data from Department of Health and Children on self-reported Body Mass Index (BMI) shows an increase in obesity of over 30 per cent for both men and women between 1998 and 2007.
The data suggests 59 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women are now self-reporting as either overweight or obese.
GlaxoSmithKline’s Niall O’Shea said: “Weight is not a vanity or beauty issue — it is a health issue and it is one that can be addressed, if people are willing to take control of their own circumstances”.
“Being obese is extremely dangerous and can lead to significant health problems, which can sometimes be fatal. We are working to help raise awareness of the seriousness of this issue and of the solutions that are available, to people who are currently obese,” he said.
Further details about the health risks associated with obesity can be found on the official European Obesity Day website at http://www.obesityday.eu