Some 2.6 million Netherlands residents obese

The number of adults and children in the Netherlands who are overweight or obese doubled since 1990, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands. About 2.5 million adults and 100 thousand children in the country are obese. In the run-up to World Obesity Day, doctors and scientists call on the government to give more attention to this issue, they said in a statement released by the Maastricht University Medical Center.

Half of adults and 12 percent of children are overweight, and 15 percent of adults and almost three percent of children are seriously overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the researchers caution.

"Obesity is not a lifestyle choice. Although nutrition and physical activity are important in the prevention and treatment of overweight [people], other factors also play a role, such as sleep, stress and prescription drug use," Dr. Gijs Goossens said. He is a scientist at the Maastricht UMC+ and chairman of the Dutch association for obesity studies (NASO).

According to Ronald Liem, surgeon and chairman of the Dutch Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery​, the government and health insurers' current focus on preventing obesity is not enough. "The consequences of obesity are huge," he said. "Obesity is a chronic condition and therefore deserves customized care and treatment."

Part of providing better care for obesity, is breaking through the stigma around it. According to Goossens and Liem, people with obesity are often seen as lazy and lacking in self-discipline, and face discrimination at work, in education, and even from healthcare professionals.

"Obesity is not a personal choice. As long as we maintain prejudices in the Netherlands, the threshold for adequate treatment and counseling fro people with obesity remains irresponsibly high," they said.