An overweight person eats in London, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007. Britain's health secretary called Wednesday for a fundamental shift in the way the nation tackles obesity after a study said dramatic action was required to stop the majority of the population from becoming obese by 2050. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Report Warns UK of Burgeoning Obesity
LONDON (AP) — Most British citizens could be obese by 2050, a new government report warns, http://www.foresight.gov.uk/Obesity/Obesity_final/14.pdf
and the nation's health secretary called Wednesday for a fundamental shift in the way the nation tackles obesity.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson didn't blame British eating habits, calling obesity "a consequence of abundance, convenience and underlying biology."
"As this report starkly demonstrates, people in the U.K. are not more gluttonous than previous generations and individual action alone will not be sufficient," he said in a speech to Parliament.
The obesity analysis by the Foresight program, run by the Office for Science, concludes that excess weight has become the norm and described Britain as an "obesogenic" society.
Obesity costs Britain the equivalent of $90 million a year already. Obese people have a greater risk for life-threatening conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The number of overweight and obese people has tripled in the last 25 years. One in four adults are now obese, according to the most recent Health Study for England.
By comparison, about one-third of adults in the United States are obese; two-thirds are overweight.
The Foresight report projects that by 2050, 60 percent of British men, 50 percent of women and a quarter of children and young people will be obese unless drastic action is taken.
The study's authors, who based their findings on research from 250 experts over two years, said there was scant proof that current anti-obesity policies worked. The government pledged to draw up new plans to combat bulging waistlines.
Solutions to the problem will not be found "in exhortations to greater individual responsibility or in the futility of isolated initiatives," the health secretary said.
The report made a series of proposals:
_Earlier action when young children start gaining too much weight.
_Targeting people who are at increased risk.
_Controlling high-calorie foods.
_Changing the design of towns to make them more physically demanding.
_Increasing employer responsibility.
"There is a danger that the moment to act radically and dramatically will be missed," said Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser and head of the Foresight report. "It is a problem that is getting worse every year."
King and his fellow authors said obesity was inevitable in developed societies like Britain, where convenience foods, labor-saving devices, cars and sedentary work are part of daily life.
"We are facing a far worse scenario than even our gloomiest predictions," said Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity TaskForce, in a statement. "We need to respond rapidly and decisively."