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 980.

    979. David Lilley
    In an ideal world yes I agree and wouldn't it be marvellous. The sad fact is lots of research has shown high fat .high salt and high sugar in part or combination makes people want to eat more its why another high fat crisp is attractive or a sugar laden cake even chips with salt on are more attractive to taste buds and the companies know this to be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    We should just make fattening foods VAT rated. The manufacturers would simply change their recipies to remain fat free and avoid a 20% price rise. Low fat foods (high in sugar to compensate) and low sugar foods (high in fat to compensate) would disappear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    976 Auf Wiedersehen Pet
    The Government could ignore the food firms lobbying - but prefers not to. I don't know whether the food industry donates to Government like finance does. We could alter policies in Europe, if we worked with other countries, and again ignored the food firm's lobbying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    I love my food and drink, don't care if I die early. Who wants to work till they are 70 then have no pension and live in poverty for the next 20 years. Spend, eat, drink be merry while you can then keel over quick and go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    Tam "Deep" Fry 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.


    Ha! Tam do you really believe that "government" can do that?

    Only Brussels can do it. And they haven't. And they won't.

    Not while they are in Nestlé's pockets...

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    Fast food companies make people fat in the same way that pencils misspell words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    True but only on BMI if you are 2m tall

    Perfectly true and I am pleased to hear you make your own lunch a wise move and it saves a fortune to which can add up to the spending money for a holiday over time.

    Your response made me smile and then laugh, thanks for your observations on other peoples comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.


    You clearly know your stuff. However a life time of garlic and salad sandwiches on low-salt bread is not for me. I prefer to enjoy my food even if it makes me chubby.


    Why should my hard-earned tax money go to frustrated, angry people who give themselves early onset stress-induced heart disease and hypertension?

  • rate this

    Comment number 972.

    962.Dave1506 I do indeed make lunch on most days, since the options if I don't are spending my lunch hour looking for something to eat or going hungry- I was commenting on the wide availability of fatty food, sweets and crisps to the exclusion of other options. Possibly, many people's health might be improved if a better quality of food was available locally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 971.

    No I quite agree up to a point its none of the things you mention, it's my thyroid function and other medical issues, tough you don't like the specialists advice you lump it you are not entirely right live with it. For most don't assume all its an idiotic mistake and I trust you don't fall into that category. I had a BMI of 21 until the health gave out and a 26inch waist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    #964 Steve.

    Also, 100 kilos sounds a lot better that 220 pounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    I hope this crisis does not lead to more hate and intolerance against obese people- I have heard hateful comments shouted to people about their weight in the street, sometimes to young teenagers - people might be struggling with their weight loss and also have other issues to deal with in their lives, the behaviour of these people really sickens me

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    firstly BMI is an awful way of measuring if you are the "correct" weight, its hugely flawed.

    But people need to take their health seriously, I dont see why I should pay my taxes to treat the self inflicted health problems of people to lazy to move and too used to stuffing their faces with fast food.

    And no its not your metabolism, genes or whatever, you are fat, and lazy, deal with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    963.Margy Nalgain
    Wouldn't know, the renal dietitian gave me a long list of banned items and those that are suggested you don't eat and personally I follow that advice zealously. No cake in 20 years no crisps no pies no coffee no carrots no nuts all for medical reasons you understand and the one that makes me smile you only need 1.5 ozs of meat or a max of 60g of protein 2g of salt look at bread

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    Trouble is having given up smoking and drinking eating is the only pleasure left !

    Robert, there ARE other pleasures, believe me!

  • Comment number 965.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.


    "I'm 27 and I weigh 27...."
    ....stones? bricks? rocks? buckets? or even pounds?

    Really BBC have you still not heard of kilograms?
    It's 2014 and all the neighbouring world around uses KG.
    NHS uses KG.
    Food is sold per KG. V
    Vehicles are weighted in KG.
    But you are still broadcasting 'Ancient Greek' without translation...


  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    Remember, people; it's what's inside that counts...

    pies. mars bars, crisps, doughnuts...

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    You could pack a sandwich and take it with you, a stenol margarine and low salt bread with chopped garlic and salad would be far healthier perhaps not to your taste but if you make your own you can't blame anyone else for what's available.

  • Comment number 961.

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


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