The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

369 people died from obesity-related illnesses in Malta in 2019

Karl Azzopardi Tuesday, 1 December 2020, 13:15 Last update: about 5 months ago

Almost 400 deaths in 2019 can be attibuted to obesity, Health Minister Chris Fearne revealed while answering a parlimanetary question from PN MP Ivan Bartolo. 

Bartolo asked the Minister to give an indication of how many people died from illnesses relating to obesity in the last three years. 

Fearne replied by inidcating the number of such deaths in 2019 only. He explained that according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) GBD Results Tool, there were 369 deaths which can be attributed to obsesity in Malta.

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He noted that this is lower than the European average. 

Yet, it should be noted that the latest National Statistic Office (NSO) obesity infographic shows that 25.5% of Maltese people are obese, much higher than the EU average of 14.9%. The most recent Eurostat statistics on obesity (based on 2014 data) then indicate that Malta has the highest obesity rate in adults (59.6%). 

Additionally, a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted between 2017 and 2018 shows that Malta tops the obesity charts with regards to children who are 11, 13 and 15-year olds, with the numbers not only remaining high, but having increased between 2014 and 2017, which  are dates when data was taken. 

In the same strand of parliamentary questions, Fearne mentioned that since 2017, the Labour government has done a lot of work in order to curb this pressing issue, such as the diet guide for parents of children aged three to twelve years which is based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet and in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Maltese Adults.

There were also numerous campaigns and weight-loss programs that were made available to the public while various studies were conducted.

Notably, last August, research led by Professor Barry Popkin, a nutrition and obesity researcher from the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health, showed that obesity increases the risk of death from Covid-19 by nearly 50% and may make vaccines against the disease less effective.

The study found that anyone with a BMI over 30, are at greater risk from the coronavirus in every way. Their risk of ending up in hospital with Covid-19 is increased by 113%, they are more likely to be admitted to intensive care (74%) and have a higher risk of death (48%) from the virus.

The study, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, is a meta-analysis, bringing together data from many studies carried out around the world, including Italy, France, the UK, the US and China.

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