The latest Eurobarometer on Health, Food and Nutrition, released by the European Commission last Friday, also reveals that 95 per cent of EU citizens agree that obesity is harmful for health, addresses the health and physical characteristics of Europeans, their diet and general eating habits, problems related to being overweight, and their physical activity levels.
Eating more vegetables and less fat are the most frequent changes that Europeans say they are introducing in their eating habits. However, most respondents report feeling trapped in a sedentary life that restricts their attempts to lead a healthy lifestyle.
According to Eurobarometer, less than 30 per cent of Europeans carry out 'intensive' physical activity on a regular basis. Most Europeans (85 per cent) feel public authorities should play a stronger role in fighting obesity. Nine out of ten Europeans feel that marketing and advertising influence children in their food and drink choices.
The results add to the ongoing debate between industry, regulators and consumer groups over the role the food sector should play in combating obesity. While acknowledging that it must do more to rebuild public confidence, the food industry is determined to show that self-regulation is the best solution.
"Better regulation, including industry self-regulation, can deliver benefits to European consumers faster and create more jobs and growth than old-style outright regulation," said Martin recently, citing the example of the EU's Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health as a positive experiment in self-regulation and "catalyst for action".
EU health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou said that the survey "provides us with valuable insights into the concerns of EU citizens on health and nutrition".
"EU citizens are aware there is a problem with overweight and obesity in Europe, and that much depends on their willingness to address it and change their lifestyle," he said.
"At the same time, they also support a strong role for public authorities, including EU institutions, in devising a consistent policy to tackle obesity across Europe. The Commission is planning to respond to this call by developing proposals for a European strategy on the issue next year."
It was interesting to note that EU consumers appear increasingly aware that sedentary lifestyles are a contributing factor to obesity something the food industry has long argued. Respondents declared that they spend on average just over six hours a day sitting during a normal day.
Although almost 90 per cent of respondents declared that they had performed some physical activity over the last 7 days by moving from place to place, only 22 per cent reported that they had performed a lot of physical activity.
Almost 90 per cent of EU citizens declared that they had performed some physical activity outdoors over the last 7 days, but only 27 per cent described their activity as intensive. Few Europeans play sport or participate in recreational or leisure activities in an intensive way.
At European level, approximately one in five respondents declared that he or she had dieted over the last 12 months. Women are more likely than men to have dieted or changed their eating habits.
Losing weight and staying healthy are the main reasons given by respondents for this. 83 per cent of respondents agree that childhood obesity has increased over the last 5 years.