Doctors unite to combat obesity

A quarter of UK adults is thought to be obese Obesity is the "single greatest" threat to health, say the doctors

Related Stories

Organisations representing nearly every doctor in the UK have united in a single campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity.

The campaign will start by reviewing the case for fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures.

They criticised sponsorship of the Olympics by fast food firms as sending "the wrong message".

The Department of Health said it was taking action to combat obesity.

A spokesman for the campaign, Prof Terence Stephenson, said the government's current strategy of "partnering" food firms in order to tackle obesity "might be seen as counter-intuitive".

Almost a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to be obese and some predictions suggest half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020, with Prof Stephenson saying they were "storing up problems for the future".

Start Quote

This won't be just another report that sits on the shelf and gathers dust”

End Quote Prof Sir Neil Douglas Academy of Royal Medical Colleges

"This is a huge problem for the UK. It's much bigger than HIV was, much bigger than swine flu."

The Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties represent some 200,000 doctors across all specialities, from GPs to paediatricians and surgeons to psychiatrists.

They have described their campaign as an "unprecedented" union - as part of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) - on an issue of public health.

AoMRC spokesman Prof Stephenson said: "Every doctor I've ever spoken to feels obesity is a huge problem for the UK population."

He said a united voice had "more of a chance" of tacking obesity.

Woman Cutting food intake, rather than exercise alone, is the key to not becoming obese, doctors say

The first phase of the campaign will try to find out what works. It will review evidence for diets, exercise, taxation, minimum pricing, changing advertising and food labelling, which medical procedures work and how children are educated.

Recommendations could target food companies who sponsor major sporting events - such as the Olympics - and fast food outlets which operate close to schools.

Prof Stephenson said allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics "sends the wrong message."

"They clearly wouldn't be spending the money if they didn't benefit from being associated with successful athletes," he said.

A McDonald's spokesperson said the Olympics was "the biggest catering operation in the world," adding: "Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympics."

Smoking parallels

Prof Stephenson told the BBC a campaign to persuade people to eat healthy food might work in the same way as the current anti-smoking drive.

There have been heavy restrictions on advertising smoking in the UK, on TV and at sports events, and a consultation is being launched on whether cigarettes should be sold in plain packaging.

"It's much more likely, as in smoking, that the solution will lie in changing the environments, changing the way people are exposed to marketing, advertising and pressures to buy these kinds of foods," he said.

"Another aspect of that is the taxation of cigarettes to deter people from buying them - that seems something we should look at in relation to food," he said.

Dr Tony Goldstone, an obesity expert at London's Hammersmith Hospital, explains what fat is

However, Prof Stephenson said he did not think society could simply exercise its way out of the problem of obesity.

"My own personal experience is you have to exercise a huge amount to lose weight, I would have to run on a treadmill at maximum speed for an hour to counter-effect the calories from one or two Mars bars.

"Most people in modern life just don't have the time in our lives to spend several hours a day exercising."

These are not the final recommendations of the doctors groups. The plan is to spend the next three months gathering the evidence.

The Department of Health said it welcomed the colleges' "emphasis on obesity as this is one of our key public health priorities," and highlighted the change4life campaign to encourage healthier living, and the "responsibility pledge" by some food and drink companies to improve public health.

A spokesman added: "We are committed to identifying the best possible evidence of what works in tackling obesity which everyone across the country has a role to play in and we look forward to seeing the evidence of the Royal Colleges inquiry."

Prof Stephenson said there was nothing wrong with the government working with food manufacturers to improve public health "but to rely on the industry seems counterintuitive".

Prof Sir Neil Douglas, chair of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, said: "This won't be just another report that sits on the shelf and gathers dust. It will form the bedrock of our ongoing campaigning activity.

"We are absolutely determined to push for whatever changes need to happen to make real progress in tackling obesity - which is why we're casting the net wide to get input from a range of organisations and individuals."

While doctors say the vast majority of cases stem from lifestyle, there are some medical conditions and medications which can lead to weight gain.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Just when we thought it had been killed off by common sense, unfortunately the nanny state is alive and well. Does anyone really think that banning advertising of fast food is going to make the slightest difference to people who eat it. The answer is reasonably simple, in a country where it is cheaper to eat fast food than healthy food, something needs to change

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    RW2004 wrote:

    "many uninformed or ignorant people there are...who that think obesity is due to...consuming too many calories...should try living with health conditions ..that DO cause massive weight gains,....hypothyroidism."

    Even when I was untreated for my hypothyroidism with a very high TSH level I only gained a few pounds.

    Fundamental fact: excess calories leads to weight gain!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Obesity is NOT like smoking. You don't HAVE to smoke but you do have to eat. It's an addiction and much tougher to beat than smoking. Over eating is a symptom of stress. The most comforting foods are fats and carbohydrates - those that reduce stress when eaten in excessive quantities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I have often wondered why i have to wait two weeks to see my GP.
    The answer is now obvious, they are busy uniting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    The pontificating dictatorial medical profession are at it again. I am classed as obese but I never eat fast food or takeaways. I eat my five a day - more sometines - and drink less than the recommended units per week. The problem is I am just a lazy sod and don't exercise enough and I know it. It's more exercise that's required starting in schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Eat clean, turn off the TV and do some exercise. It's really not that hard.

    Genetics/medical conditions may play a small role for some people but they really are the minority.

    But hey what do I care... chubs everywhere just make those of us in shape look even better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Or do we need enforced Tai Chi and calasthenics in the street every morning, like the Chinese, so that Our Esteemed Leader, Brother Cameron doesn't have to spent too much of the amassed taxes on health care???

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    We split pretty evenly between the amateur doctors, the pathologically cynical and the hopelessly bonkers, don't we?
    And none of us can spell.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    How about charging us for NHS medical attention in proportion to how much above ideal BMI we are?
    (It worries me that I have to share my medical service with people who do very little to look after themselves)

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    @87 solomondogs

    Yes, there were plenty of overweight people when you were a child, the fact is that you were not conscious of this, as a child then, you wouldn't be.

    As for the winters, genes take millions of years to evolve and change in our species is slow. How would you have survived the winter of 2010/11 without central heating, supermarkets, refrigerator? Luck and FTO genes saved us

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    After seeing the way the olympics has been organised, I firmly believe that it has nothing to do with sport and everything to do with big business. The involvement of fast food companies is therefore no surprise.

    For example, think about why Joe Public cannot buy a ticket for the games, but can win one by reading The Sun, or visiting MacDonalds etc. Its all about sponsorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I dont agree with people sitting at home eating themselves to death but surely that is there life choice, however I don't see why every person who is obese has to be victamised when there are worse things. Grow up for goodness sake an just leave people alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    It never ceases to amaze me how many uninformed or ignorant people there are in this world. Those who that think obesity is due to either laziness or simply consuming too many calories or not getting enough exercise should try living with health conditions which require medicines that DO cause massive weight gains,steroids for instance, or hypothyroidism which make weight loss extremely difficult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.


    Why don't you eat nothing but Burger King every day for a month and then see how healthy you are at the end. Having a fast-food outlet selling deep-fried processed junk in a hospital hardly puts out the right message. Calorie counting is an out of date method of weight management and there are many more effective ways of making healthy food and lifestyle choices available now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    We're all walking bundles of chemical reactions. Food effects us in different ways. Bread for one person may be ok but for another may cause them to deposit fat.

    So there is no hard a fast rule for everyone.

    Keep a food diary and note how food effects you. Cutting out some foods will help you lose fat.

    Use the Net to research what type of exercise is best for you.

    Have fun doing it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    33.Name number 6
    >>>Apparently your more likely to be overweight if your badly educated and in poorly paid work or unemployed. Does this suggest benefits are too generous, how can they afford such fatty food?

    Look at MPs very well paid, well educated? and a lot of them are overweight

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    The government may have done it for other reasons but where were all these experts and news editors congratulating Osborne for increasing tax on pasties.

    May be supporting the government doesnt sell papers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Metabolism is the key to a lot of people. The body has a "set point" for weight and within reason stays there whether you eat more or less. Trying to get below that set point means a big change in calorie input. The body has a regulating system that lowers metabolism if you go below that point, "reverse T3" is the main one.


  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    How can they compare obesity to HIV and use a past tense to describe it? That is shocking

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Foxhead wrote:

    "use new taxes on fatty foods to subsidise the high price of healthy food many people simply cannot afford to buy"

    Calories are in all types of food components, not just fat.

    People need to start separating "healthy foods" with the idea that that is what will make them lose weight. Because a certain food is considered healthy does not mean it will have less calories.


Page 27 of 32


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.