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 680.

    Fat causes T2 Diabetes, the insulin resistance sort. South Asians and Hispanics have an unlucky genetic tendency to store fat round their middle,hence can become diabetic T2 whilst only overweight as opposed to obese. Most white Brits don't have these genes,hence have to be obese or even morbidly obese before diabetes sets in. ALL can be cured with a 2-3 month diet which halts insulin resistance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    When my doctor told me to stop eating Walnuts as they are may be contributing to my slightly raised Vitamin D level I realised that the doctor didn't know what she was talking about. Doctors get a couple of weeks training about nutrition, mostly relating to drug interactions (don't eat garlic it might interfere with the Warfarin Mr Smith). Doctors worry me and mine is fairly young - more worrdying

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    Why is this a problem?

    We need some hard facts on:-

    1. The incremental costs of Obesity to the country.

    2. The financial gains that Obesity brings e.g.

    Employment, Taxes around the industries of getting fat.
    Obesity Healthcare (Healthcare employment etc.)
    Reduced Lifespan, reduced Pension spend.

    If there is a net financial neutral position then its down to personal choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    BMI is misleading - heavyweight boxers good enough to become champions come in as borderline obese.

    Through a mixture of bone structure and a predisposition to favourable choices I've maintained relatively easily a BMI of ~21 for most of my life. I'm currently unemployed and unattached but don't fill the empty hours by eating and drinking...

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    And people believe that the UK has a real cost of living crisis, which means people can't eat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    I agree! I didn't expect to be this fat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.

    Why are people saying fruit is healthy? Any idea how much sugar there is in a banana? Quite a lot!. Acidic fruits rot your teach. You can't eat citrus fruit if you take certain tablets either (it stops them working). Add to that the fact that fruit isn't cheap and much of it these days is imported. Plus the fact that all fruit contains a sugar - fructose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    I am 5'5 11 stone, only eat 1500 calories a day or less, exercise 5 times a week, yet cannot lose any weight, and the bmi says i'm fat.
    The only way i'll lose weight is to become unemployed so i can't afford work, but then i won't be able to afford the gym!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 672.

    @645.SillyEnglandDotCom, I'm in the same boat 43, yet I'm classed as obese, bordering on clinically (BMI 37, 5'11"), yet I dont have high Blood pressure, cholesterol, enjoy the odd pint, kebab, pizza.

    to Stay fit since quitting rugby I run 2-3 KM every morning and do a 10-15 mile bike ride at weekends. however my weight doesnt move, and people looking at me think I'm Fat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    It's hard to stop smoking and yet people do it, it's hard to stop drug and alcohol addiction and yet people do it. It takes self control and some effort. You have to want to make a change. Start by avoiding shops that sell loads of junk food, don't indulge in take away food. When using supermarkets - don't even walk down the biscuit aisle. No-one MAKES fat people buy chocs & biscuits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    It must be the bi weekly "pick on the fatty" day. For some it is laziness, but for many obesity is linked to mental health conditions. Changing psychology is not as easy as "don't buy crisps". Would some of these people demonstrating lack of understanding walk up to an anorexic person and rudely tell them to just eat a mars bar? Similar issues, different symptoms!!!! A little sensitivity please

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    @620.David, I disagree about the less fortunate part, as the perception is that frozen pre-prepared food is cheaper than buying fresh ingredients and making something yourself.

    So they aren't actually less fortunate, just less perceptive? I think that's even sadder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    It is easy to see that obesity is a common problem - all the comments indicating personal responsibility are marked down; the posts that suggest it is all someone else's fault are marked up. Truth is, obesity is self-inflicted, is a matter of eating too many calories and it is costing the health services vast, and rising, sums of money in trying to cope with the consequences. Truth hurts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    I think there is an issue with portion size too. Convenience foods are not just high in fat and sugar, they come in often three sizes - big, huge and enormous! If crisps were still sold in small packets there would be less temptation to get a big multi pack. Look at the size of steaks sold in pubs and the huge portion of chips one is given.

  • Comment number 666.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    I am the Oldest of 5 Children our mum cooked for us from scratch every day and I thank her for it as it would have been far easier to buy is junk food. We also took up sport at a young age and have stuck with it ever since we currently have 2 Rugby Players, 1 Boxer, 1 Footballer and a cross country runner (all Amateurs) and non of us are overweight.

    But are you all illiterate, or just you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    @645. SillyEnglandDotCom

    Me too - if I want fish and chips or a pizza for dinner, I have it. But then I the food I normally cook myself is healthy - I don't try to make it that way, its just what I like and know how to cook.

    I like to walk places and often will cover 5+ miles a day - I don't see it as a chore or even class it as excercise, I just download some new music and off I go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    It's a virtual certainty that if you scanned through every single article that the BBC has ever published on the topic of obesity you would never encounter the word 'greedy'. Too obvious? Too simple? Or just too politically incorrect for a BBC journalist ever to utter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    635. bhscolleen
    "There is no scientific measure of fat, it's all arbitrary"

    It's not all arbitrary: there are scientific studies of the increased risks from heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, etc., for those whose weight:height ratios exceed certain ranges. BMI is a blunt instrument and takes no account of body composition (e.g. fat/muscle ratios) but it's a good place to start

  • Comment number 661.

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


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