The 6th Edition of the EGEA Conference was held in Brussels in May 5-7 2010

Once again this was a highly successful event bringing together distinguished scholars, experts and officials. The theme of the event was Social and Health Benefits of a Balanced Diet: the role of Fruit and Vegetables.

Obesity is an increasing curse in our modern societies. The consequence is an increase in obesity related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases. Obesity is the result of our live style with too little physical activity and an unhealthy diet, where we eat too much food and far too little of Fruit and Vegetables (F&V). Inevitably this lifestyle has an increasing cost for our societies in the treatment of obesity related diseases. Unless we succeed in stopping the trend this cost is only going to further accelerate like a snowball bringing down an avalanche. To this mounting financial cost should be additionally added the emotional cost and stress for individuals suffering from obesity.

The WHO recommends a minimum daily consumption of 400gr of F&V. One of the themes of the Conference was to discuss the link between low consumption of F&V and the prevalence of obesity. Although it is widely assumed that F&V consumption has a beneficial effect on preventing overweight and obesity, it is not easy to demonstrate the causality.

Another aspect considered by the Conference was the fact that low consumption of F&V and higher incidence of obesity is associated with lower socio-economic groups. This creates a vicious circle exacerbating the disadvantages that such groups are already fighting against. The issue is therefore how can we establish policies and introduce instruments to break this circle of disadvantage.

One of these instruments is the newly introduced EU School Fruit Scheme. The School Fruit Scheme was adopted by the EU in 2008 and now 25 out of 27 Member States participate in the programme. This is a fantastic success considering that prior to the introduction of the scheme only 6-7 programs were running on a national basis and only to a limited extent. The idea is to combine the consumption of F&V in schools with a nutrition policy and balanced diet, connecting children with agriculture. The consumption of F&V in itself is not the primary objective, but rather to use the School Fruit Scheme as an opportunity to force health, education and agriculture authorities and stakeholders to work together as “The key to the door”. Nutrition, healthy lifestyle, agriculture and environment should be brought into the curriculum as a natural element. We need to invest in our children so that their consumption of F&V during their life is permanently increased. There is a lot to do if we are to win the fight against obesity and future EGEA conferences will make an important contribution to this battle.

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