Obesity crisis: Future projections 'underestimated'

Overweight man eating fast food The report cast doubt over obesity predictions from a study seven years ago

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Estimates that half the UK population will be obese by 2050 "underestimate" the problem, a report has claimed.

The National Obesity Forum said Britain was in danger of surpassing the prediction contained in a 2007 report.

The lobbying group is calling for hard-hitting awareness campaigns, similar to the approach taken to smoking, to try to stem the problem.

Chairman Prof David Haslam said the crisis could get even worse than the "doomsday scenario" already set out.

Measuring obesity

  • Most cases of obesity are caused by a person eating more calories than they burn off
  • Modern lifestyles - easy access to high calorie foods and sedentary jobs/leisure activities - make weight gain more likely
  • The healthy weight range is based on a measurement known as the body mass index (BMI)
  • This can be determined if you know your weight and your height
  • A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is deemed healthy for an adult
  • While morbid obesity is easy to spot, moving from the 'overweight' to 'obese' category may not be obvious without using BMI
  • Being obese increases your risk of developing a number of serious and potentially life-threatening diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes

The report stated: "It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the determinations of the 2007 Foresight Report, while shocking at the time, may now underestimate the scale of the problem."

The forum called for GPs to proactively discuss weight management with patients, and routinely measure children's height and weight and adults' waist size, it added.

Katie: "I'm 27 and I weigh 27 stone...I'm disgusted with myself"

'Concerted action'

Prof Haslam said: "We're now seven years on from the Foresight Report. Not only is the obesity situation in the UK not improving, but the doomsday scenario set out in that report might underestimate the true scale of the problem.

"There needs to be concerted action. There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves - but this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing."

Start Quote

There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves”

End Quote Prof David Haslam National Obesity Forum chairman

He added: "We need more proactive engagement by healthcare professionals on weight management, more support and better signposting to services for people who are already obese, and more importance placed on what we drink and how it affects our health.

"We've seen hard-hitting campaigns against smoking and it's time to back up the work that's already being done with a similar approach for obesity."

Prof Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said obesity was an international problem that required action at "national, local, family and individual level".

"Everyone has a role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of the public, and children in particular," he said.

"PHE are committed to helping to tackle obesity through a range of approaches that support action on the local environment to make eating less and being more physically active easier."

A survey published in 2012 found that just over a quarter of all adults (26%) in England are obese. A further 41% of men and 33% of women are classed as overweight.

Tam Fry, also from the National Obesity Forum, told the BBC that foods needed to be "reformulated" as they were packed with sugar, fat and salt.

He said: "The problem with industry is that they're very happy to go on doing this unless they are actually whipped into shape and the only people that can do that is government.

"That is not to take away from the individual responsibility, but the individuals can only buy the food that is there on the shelves."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    @554.Chris mather
    "That's outrageous!!! How dare you? Do you do criticise everyone who doesn't conform to your idea of perfection, and tell them how to lead THEIR lives?"

    So you don't think NHS staff would have more credibility if they were not obese?

    Apart from anything else, you cannot do many jobs effectively if you are morbidly obese (as many are these days).

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    @549. arltunstall

    I bought a bag of carrots for a pound yesterday, and an onion for 16p and a chunk of ginger for 20p. I made soup last night but will do my lunch for the whole week (maybe not Friday but I treat myself on a Friday).

    A bag of potatoes would make enough chips for 5 people.

    And £5 of raw Bolagnease ingredients would feed a family of 4, so costs the same but is far healthier!

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    the condem government consider the problem of obesity to be so important they have created a new cabinet post of fat czar , after a reshuffle the rt hon Eric PIckles mp was moved to this vital post and will take up his duties as soon as the door to his office has been widened

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.


    "clothes shops increased their sizes but kept the numbering the same so people feel they aren't fat"

    I have evidence in my wardrobe that you are wrong (I don't believe in throwing out a good pair of jeans!). For many shops the opposite is true.

    In fact, I can regularly wear four to five different sizes at any one time, since the high street don't tend to correlate measurements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    As a rule you should shop around the edges of a supermarket where the fresh food is and avoid the middle where the high profit processed foods are. You'll notice the difference in your shopping bill too. The middle is where the grocers make all their money, it's generally low quality food made to look expensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    nagivatorjan When I was 10 I used to walk about 3 miles to school and back. No bus available for that short distance is no excuse. Those things called legs and the bits hanging off called feet where designed to propel your body. Try it and then you wont have a weight problem. At 68 years of age I still walk 6 + miles a day and I don't have a weight problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    "NHS should be leaders in this and staff should note be obese. Not all are but have seen many who should be ashamed ...."

    That's outrageous!!! How dare you? Do you do criticise everyone who doesn't conform to your idea of perfection, and tell them how to lead THEIR lives?


  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    Even easier to measure than BMI, is keeping waist measurement to less than half height measurement (Obviously ignoring drastically anorexic proportions).


  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    Parents who stuff their kids with junk because it keeps them quiet are the main culprits. Don't blame schools, the government or the companies who sell you the food you ask for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    Surely this is one subject the Tory/Lib-dem partnership are already dealing with.

    Its only food banks that are slowing down their efforts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    I would ask a couple of questions. Firstly, why did this food addiction not appear until the 1970s? You just didn't see fat children when I was growing up. Secondly, if you feel guilty about eating the food which you know makes you fat, WHY BUY IT? I see obese people in the shops and their trolleys are laden with rubbish, not a fresh vegetable in sight. They'd rather watch TV than cook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Bag of raw, unpeeled carrots £0.99 - McCheeseburger £0.99
    Bag of Potatoes (K Edward) £2.50 - Large McChips £2.50
    Beef mince, tomatoes, onions, garlic, stock cubes, herbs, pasta £5+
    Premade Spaghetti Bolognese £1.29

    It doesn't take a genius to work out that if raw, unadulterated food was cheaper than pre-made crap, people would buy it. Especially seeing as we plebs are NOT out of a RECESSION

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    I mucked myself up eating the wrong food. I have to now eat the healthy way - the weight is dropping off. Don't make excuses for yourself - you know that you are. Act now and change your life - before it changes you - Diabetes, blood - pressure and a thousand other things. Its my gift of a warning before its too late - I am busy dodging a bullet.......please take heed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    I sympathise with people genuinely struggling with eating disorders.

    The attitudes displayed on this forum are typical, but would be unacceptable in other disease areas. You wouldn't tell someone who was clinically depressed to "cheer up" or someone who was addicted to heroine or alcohol that giving up was trivial and safe to do without support.
    I agree that all these cases are not clinical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    We don't need a "fat tax", we're already taxed enough. Instead, let's allow people to feel the financial disincentive for their poor choices. If you eat like a pig and get health problems as a result, you pay the bill for your personal choices and resulting preventable diseases; do not force strangers to pay for your lack of personal judgment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Don't blame food manufacturers. They do not conspire to make people fat but respond, in proper supplier fashion, to the clear desire by many (most?) Brits to eat vast amounts of rubbish. We want; they provide. We, the consumer, have a choice: get educated and be healthy or eat garbage and die young and fat. My greatest regret is the amount that the NHS spends on baling out fat people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    ..many reasons why some people are overweight - not all of them are overeating. Thyroid problems .. type 1 diabetes

    No 100% of people are overweight because they consume more calories than they use - eat too much
    there are however a whole load of genetic factors & health issues which can 'encourage' them to do that &/or make it harder for them to reverse the process & lose weight

  • Comment number 543.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    yes the figures are getting fatter

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    A 'fat tax' is essential if we are to pay for the burden that our overweight nation is placing on the NHS in particular. Special beds, hoists, operating tables, the extra treatment. Smokers and alcoholics pay extra through duties.


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