53 per cent of the 1,445 people surveyed at the Lausanne University Hospital had a waist circumference that revealed them to be overweight, according to the conclusions published in newspaper SonntagsZeitung. Of those found to be overweight, 30 percent were obese.
The study also found more women (58 percent) to be overweight than men (48 percent).
The study is being considered the most important of its kind in Switzerland. For the first time, it measures waist dimensions rather than relying solely on body mass index (BMI) or people’s self-evaluation of their weight condition.
When experts only looked at BMI, results showed that 45 percent of the Swiss population was overweight, as opposed to 53 percent with the latest study.
According to Bernd Schultes, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Centre of Eastern Switzerland abdominal circumference is a more important measure of health condition than BMI or body weight. The risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease increases with every additional inch of fat around the waist.
Michael Beer, head of the National Health and Food Safety Office, said the results would have to be checked for their representativeness since only patients at Lausanne University Hospital were part of the survey. But he warned that the study appeared to confirm earlier findings. “We have a massive problem of people being overweight in Switzerland,” he told the Sunday newspaper.
The proportion of overweight people in Switzerland is higher than it was 40 years ago. Researchers at Lausanne University Hospital blame the increase on two factors: fat in food has increased from 33 to 40 percent even though people consume the same amount of calories, and consumption of fruit has gone down by 30 percent.
The results on weight are part of a wider study commissioned by the Federal Health Office examining people’s salt intake in Switzerland.
The results have caused alarm in medical circles: Every Swiss eats an average of 9.1 grams of salt per day, a quantity well above the 5 grams per person recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Men especially consume too much salt: 10.6 grams per day on average, compared to the 7.8 grams for women.
The study also showed that 25.6 per cent of the individuals tested had high blood pressure. Again, men were more frequently affected (32.3 percent) than women (19.1 percent).