Discover Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases, a new report launched by United European Gastroenterology (UEG), outlines alarming information on current dietary choices across the EU.
Vienna, 21 May 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.
‘Nutrition and Chronic Digestive Diseases’, launched today by United European Gastroenterology (UEG) and supported by eleven 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.
The prevalence of obesity
In addition to a raised risk of chronic digestive diseases, high consumption of these foods also increases the prevalence of obesity.
Alarmingly, 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.
Professor Markus Peck, Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Klinikum Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, Austria, explains: “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.”
“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.”
The recommendations to reduce the risk of chronic digestive diseases
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.
“Achieve a European-wide transformation to healthy diets by 2050”
“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 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.
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.