Roger Harrabin reports from the European summit in Copenhagen
Europe's top experts have warned that obesity will overtake smoking as
Britain's top preventable killer within the next 10-15 years. They expect
that as many as 75% of people by then would be overweight. They have accused
the government of putting the interests of the fast food industry and the car
lobby before the health of children.
The obesity summit's been called by the Danish presidency of the European
Union to tackle the fastest growing threat to national health. Dr Jacob
Seidell from the European Association for the Study of Obesity said fat would
soon be public enemy number one - with the UK leading the trend.
There was widespread anger at the meeting about what's perceived to be
government inaction to combat the epidemic of fat. Obesity costs the economy
£2 billion a year according to the national audit office and kills 30,000
people prematurely. The government has set up a strategy that includes giving
schoolchildren a piece of fruit a day, improving school meals and encouraging
youngsters to exercise. But the former government adviser Professor Philip
James, now chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce told the
conference that they've failed to understand the size of the problem.
Update September 13
The health services are not equipped to cope with the tide of obesity that's about to sweep Britain, according to one of Europe's top experts. Dr Peter Kopelman from the University of London told the European obesity conference in Copenhagen that doctors were making bad judgements about overweight people that were costing thousands of lives. Roger Harrabin reports.
Dr Kopelman says the medical professions generally have not woken up to the challenge of obesity becoming Britain's biggest preventable killer within the next 10-15 years. He says GPs generally shy away from the sensitive subject of trying to manage the weight of their patients. This often proved a fatal mistake
Doctors often witness a patient gaining weight over a decade or more without comment until the extra fat makes the patient ill - by which time it is too late. Then they tell the patient to go on a diet, without any idea of whether it'll have an effect. Most regional hospitals, he says, lack specialist obesity units, and doctors are reluctant to carry out surgery to curb eating, even when the patient's life is at risk.
Dr Kopelman wants much better training on obesity for the medical professions and a big investment in medical obesity facilities to gear up for inevitable problems to come.