Eurostat: Half of Czechs do not eat a single serving of fruit or vegetables a day

In a report issued this week the State Health Institute says that half of Czechs underestimate nutrition's role in quality of life. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 09.09.2023 12:00:00 (updated on 09.09.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

According to Eurostat, nearly half of Czechs do not eat the recommended daily fruit and vegetable servings. Only 8 percent consume at least five portions daily. This is concerning as poor diet accounts for nearly a quarter of Czech deaths annually, the State Health Institute said in a report issued Friday.

"Available data shows behavioral risks like diet are implicated in almost half of Czech deaths each year," said Barbora Macková, director of the State Health Institute. Diet-related deaths in the Czech Republic outpaced the EU average, with poor nutrition contributing to 23 percent of deaths in 2019 compared to the bloc's average.

Nearly three-quarters of Czechs are overweight or obese, one of the highest rates in the EU. The obesity rate of over 19 percent has grown significantly. "This condition is largely due to inappropriate eating habits," said Dr. Eliška Selinger of the Public Health Support Center of the State Institute of Health.

Fast facts

  • The Czech Medical Society estimated the costs associated with treating obesity as one-tenth of total annual healthcare spending. This represents approximately CZK 30 billion every 12 months spent on obesity-related medical care.
  • The healthy life expectancy of the Czech population is below the European Union average and far lower than in countries with a long-established cultural emphasis on individual responsibility for health.
  • In 2019, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 23 percent of all deaths in the Czech Republic could be attributed to poor diet, smoking 20 percent ​​and alcohol consumption 6 percent. Insufficient exercise is associated with 4 percent of deaths.

Meanwhile, salt intake in the Czech Republic averages three times the recommended maximum due to high processed meat consumption. "Intake of red and especially processed meat is demonstrably linked to increased cancer risk starting at just 50 grams per day," Selinger said.

Cardiovascular diseases also account for about 45 percent of annual Czech deaths, above the European average. Cancer similarly causes over a quarter of Czech deaths annually. Both diseases can stem from unhealthy lifestyles.

"Care of one's own health ultimately depends on individual responsibility," said Macková.

Adopting healthier habits is key to reducing dietary risks for Czechs. Experts advise the prioritization of plant-based foods, limiting red and processed meats to less than 50 g daily, avoiding excess salt, and engaging in regular exercise.

Reforming school meals and focusing on developing healthy habits from a young age can help address the roots of unhealthy eating patterns plaguing the Czech population. SZÚ experts are working to update school lunch guidelines and train caterers to offer nutritious, tasty options like more vegetables, legumes, and fruits.

Macková believes awareness efforts slowly shifting societal norms, coupled with leading by example within schools and families, put the country on the right path to boost healthy life expectancy over the long term.

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