MEP Heart Group meeting, Tuesday 24 April 2018

April 24th 2018

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Transforming European food and drink policies for cardiovascular health

Despite considerable progress in tackling cardiovascular diseases, it remains the leading cause of death and a major cause of illness and disability for men and women in Europe and in the EU. More than 49 million people in the EU live with CVD. Each year, more than 1.8 million people in the EU die from CVD.(1)

The members of the MEP Heart Group gathered on 24 April 2018 in the European Parliament to see how transforming European food and drinks policies can contribute to better cardiovascular health.

Poor diet is now a leading contributor to ill-health and early death. Dietary risks account for over half of deaths in men and over 40% of deaths in women in both the European region and the EU. The total economic cost of the burden of diet-related CVD is estimated to be 49% of the total yearly costs of CVD in the EU, equivalent to €102 billion. Reducing dietary risks, therefore, offers great potential to reduce the €102 billion in annual costs to the EU of diet-related CVD.(2)

A cardiovascular health-promoting diet includes vegetables, fruit and berries in abundance. Whole grain products, nuts and seeds, fish, pulses, low-fat dairy products are also important, as are non-tropical vegetable oils in modest amounts. This means a shift in consumption towards more plant based products.

Despite all the earlier reforms, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP - which is currently under revision) is still disconnected from nutrition and public health policies and often runs counter to other EU policies that deal with competition and consumer protection.

A radical change in food consumption and production is essential if we wish to create an environment where the healthy choice is the “by-default” choice. This will help address health inequalities and will be a positive move towards meeting sustainable development goals, including improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture.

Including health concerns in CAP and other policies plays an important role in creating an environment conducive to positive dietary changes, which, in turn, promote cardiovascular health.

The upcoming reform of the CAP is an opportunity to take this into consideration and work towards an improved and sustainable food supply chain.

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1. The high disease burden is not only a consequence of people living longer.  CVD is also a leading cause of death in people who have yet to reach or have recently reached, retirement age.  For men, CVD is the main cause of death before the age of 65, for women it is the second largest cause of death before that age. 

2. In order to pay for the pensions and care needs of Europe’s ageing populations, many governments are raising retirement ages.  Yet many people already have some disability at these new or proposed retirement ages. In many European countries average  healthy life expectancy – how long people can expect to live without any disability – is less than 70 years and for some countries it is less than 60 years. Yet, the average retirement age was 65.5 for OECD countries (in 2015) and in many countries this will increase to 67 or 68 years in the next 10 years. 

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