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Danish women’s weight is still increasing

Thursday 01 Oct 15

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Jeppe Matthiessen
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 44

While the prevalence of overweight or obesity among Danish men and children and adolescents appears to have stagnated, Danish women have become heavier over the past decade, and more than four out of every ten are now overweight or obese. As such, Danish women are catching up with Danish men where more than one out of two is overweight or obese. The proportion of women classified as obese has also increased, according to data from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

Overweight is a large and growing public health problem in Denmark. Analysis from the National Food Institute of the development in overweight and obesity in the Danish population from 2005-2008 to 2011-2013 shows that women’s weight has on average increased by 1.4 kilos. The prevalence of obesity has increased from 13% to 15% among Danish women.

"If the development in overweight and obesity among Danish women continues it will soon be more common for a woman to be overweight than normal weight also."

For the past decade it has been more common for a man in Denmark to be overweight than normal weight, but the prevalence of overweight or obesity among men has now stagnated. In total, 53% of Danish men are overweight or obese. For both sexes the prevalence of obesity is 15%.

Women catching up with men

”If the development in overweight and obesity among Danish women continues it will soon be more common for a woman to be overweight than normal weight also,” senior adviser Jeppe Matthiessen from the National Food Institute says.

More calories and less physical activity

Changes in Danes’ dietary habits and physical activity may have contributed to women having become heavier. International recommendations suggest that the energy density of the diet, not including drinks, should not exceed 525 kilojoules per 100 grams. However, estimates show that the Danish diet provides 744 kilojoules per 100 grams. The high energy density may be due to the fact that the fat content in the Danish diet has increased.

An energy-dense diet can particularly cause problems for people who are not very physically active. Since 2007 Danish adults have become less active, possibly because they spent more time in front of a screen and often used the car instead of the bike. The decline in physical activity is most significant among women, who have also experienced the greatest increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity during the survey period.

"There is evidence that people who eat an energy-dense diet while not being physically active gain weight more easily. Although overweight and obesity cannot be explained simply by the fact that people eat too much and exercise too little, healthy dietary habits and a physically active lifestyle definitely have a beneficial effect for those who want to achieve a healthier weight," Jeppe Matthiessen explains.

Fewer overweight Danish boys

Children’s and adolescents’ weight did not change during the survey period, and the prevalence of overweight or obesity has stagnated after several years of increase. The overall stagnation hides some differences between sexes. As such the prevalence of overweight or obese Danish boys has decreased from 20% to 13%, while an increase cannot be demonstrated among Danish girls. The reason for the decrease among boys is unclear.

"Of course it is positive to see stagnation in the prevalence of overweight or obesity among Danish children and adolescents - and a decrease among the boys. However, it is necessary to follow up on these data in order to know whether the prevalence of overweight or obesity has reversed among the boys," Jeppe Matthiessen emphasizes.

Read more

The development in overweight in Denmark from 2005-2008 to 2011-2013 has been reported in an e-article from the National Food Institute: Flere overvægtige danske kvinder (pdf – available in Danish only).

Data from the Danish national survey of diet and physical activity (DANSDA) were used in the trend analysis of overweight and obesity in Denmark. DANSDA is the only large population-based survey in which height and weight data are collected from a large, representative group from all areas of Denmark, while also covering a broad age range of both children and adults.

Please also read the National Food Institute's press release from 18 March 2014: Overweight in Danish children linked to social inequality.

https://www.food.dtu.dk/english/news/2015/10/danish-womens-weight-is-still-increasing?id=c0a1c71a-a2bd-4d7a-8a46-f71bfccf4100
12 DECEMBER 2019