Every fifth Finn is obese, that is, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. Anyone with a score over 25 is considered to be overweight. Children and youth also fail to escape the unhealthy statistic, with one in five secondary school students also tipping the scales in the wrong direction.
However, BMI is not the be-all-and-end-all, according to Tiina Laatikainen, an expert form the University of Eastern Finland.
“Body Mass Index must be considered case by case,” says Laatikainen. “For example, the limit for overweight men may be too strict. For men, there is more variation in muscle mass and body type than in women.”
Obesity or overweightness is rarely a genetically inherited trait, but eating and exercise habits are commonly passed down from parents to their children.
Regional areas most prone to pudge
In Finland, there are clear regional differences in obesity levels. The thinnest Finns live in the metropolitan area, the largest in Northern and Eastern Finland.
”We are among the fattest in the Nordic countries. Icelandic people are quite close on our tails,” estimates Laatikainen.
According to the recent FINRISKI study by the National Institute for Health and Welfare, the plus side is that Finnish obesity has not risen even further.
A wide range of nutritional supplements has been developed to help support weight loss. However, only a very overweight person should use weight loss pills in the initial stages of shedding dangerous kilos – and even then only with professional advice.
“There are a lot of products that, unfortunately, don’t come with evidence of effectiveness,” warns Laatikainen.