Obesity rates set to soar

Obesity in the UK is set to soar - with the number of dangerously overweight people growing to 26 million by 2030 - scientists have claimed.

If current trends continue, the size of the clinically obese population in the UK will increase by 11 million over the next two decades, experts predict in the medical journal The Lancet

The resulting extra cost burden coping with obesity-linked problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer would be £2bn per year, a hike of 2%.
In the worst case scenario, almost half of adult men in the UK could be obese by 2030. Obesity prevalence among UK men is forecast to rise from 26% to between 41-48%. The proportion of obese women is predicted to increase from 26%- 35 to 43%.

The figures were produced by an international team including leading British epidemiologist Professor Klim McPherson, from Oxford University.

In the UK, rising obesity rates were predicted to lead to an extra 668,000 cases of diabetes, 461,000 of heart disease, and 130,000 of cancer over the next 20 years.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “These predicted figures for obesity and heart disease in the UK are deeply worrying. We need our Government to take the lead and make it easier to be healthier, such as by ensuring children are fully protected from junk food marketing on and off line.”

However, Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation said The Lancet report had failed to “recognise the lengths” to which the UK food and drink industry has gone to help improve the health of the nation, particularly in relation to rising obesity levels.

Jones added: “Earlier this year we were pleased to have been a founding signatory of the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal - demonstrating our commitment to a multi-stakeholder and coordinated approach to improving public health. We bring with us our track record of achievement in key areas such as the reformulation of products - an area where the UK is now widely recognised as leading the world, the provision of clear consumer information and our drive to support our own workforce to make healthier choices.

“On product reformulation, the UK has been ahead of the game for a long time in reducing salt, energy and fat in their products. Achievements so far include a 9% reduction in the amount of salt and fat consumed by households since 2006 (source: Kantar World Panel), and via the Responsibility Deal, our members have committed to reduce levels even further where technologically possible, safe and acceptable to consumers.

“We recognise the significant threat that obesity poses to society and have taken a proactive part in improving health. Food companies are well aware of the complex diet, lifestyle and health challenges facing society and understand the high expectations that policy makers, regulators and campaigners have of the entire food industry. Though the Responsibility Deal initiative is still in its infancy, we firmly believe that as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development made clear last year ‘co-operation between government and industry is the single most critical link in a multi stakeholder approach.”

>> Fat tax proposed for meat