The rate of childhood and adult obesity in Europe and Central Asia has risen, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In 2022, the prevalence of overweight children under five years of age in Europe and Central Asia was 7.1%, higher than the global estimate of 5.7%, the 2023 edition of the FAO’s Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia said.

Despite a decline from 9.7% in 2010, the prevalence is more than double the 2030 target of reducing childhood obesity, according to the report.

In 2022, only Central Asia was slightly below the global estimate.

At 10.3% – close to double the global estimate – the Western Balkans had the highest rate in the region. The Caucasus had the second-highest rate of overweight children under five years of age (9.1%) in 2022.

The data showed a lower rate from 2000 to 2022 in the Caucasus, Central Asia, CIS Europe and Ukraine, and the Western Balkans. In the Central Asia and CIS Europe and Ukraine sub-regions, the prevalence had halved since 2000.

In the same period, the rate had increased in the EFTA countries - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and in the EU-27 and the UK, the report said.

“In 2022, the highest prevalence, between 10% and 15%, was recorded in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece and the UK. Only the Republic of Moldova had a prevalence (2.9%) below the 2030 target of reducing childhood overweight to less than 3% and maintaining it at that level. Tajikistan (3.1%) was just minimally above the target,” the report said.

Adult obesity had also increased in all sub-regions and all countries in Europe and Central Asia.

A comparison between 2000 and 2016 showed an increase in the rate of adult obesity in all 52 countries for which data was available. During that period, Albania and almost all countries in Central Asia had the largest increases (over 60%) in the region.

In 2016, Turkey had the highest rate of obesity in the adult population, with almost one in three adults (32.1%) being obese. At least one in four adults was obese in nine additional countries: Andorra (25.6%), Bulgaria (25%), Czechia (26%), Hungary (26.4%), Ireland (25.3%), Israel (26.1%), Lithuania (26.3%), Malta (28.9%) and the UK (27.8%). A lower prevalence of obesity among adults in the region was found in several Central Asian countries: Kyrgyzstan (16.6%), Tajikistan (14.2%) and Uzbekistan (16.6%).

Meanwhile, progress had been made in most countries concerning other nutrition targets, including child stunting, child wasting and low birthweight, the report said.