Tuesday, 15 July 2008
The government’s new ambition on excess weight, announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 is to be the first major country: to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population, by ensuring that all individuals are able to maintain a healthy weight.
Our ambition is to be the first major nation to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population by ensuring that everyone is able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Our initial focus will be on children: by 2020, we aim to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels.
Britain is in the grip of an epidemic. Almost two-thirds of adults and a third of children are either overweight or obese,1 and work by the Government Office for Science’s Foresight2 programme suggests that, without clear action, these figures will rise to almost nine in ten adults and two-thirds of children by 2050. This matters because of the severe impact being overweight or obese can have on an individual’s health – both are associated with an increasing risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart and liver disease among others – and the risks get worse the more overweight people become. They matter because of the pressure such illnesses put on families, the NHS and society more broadly, with overall costs to society forecast to reach £50 billion per year by 2050 on current trends.
At the core of the problem is an imbalance between ‘energy in’ – what is consumed through eating – and ‘energy out’ – what is used by the body, including energy used through physical activity.
Why do these trends matter? Both being obese and being overweight increase the risk of a range of diseases that can have a significant health impact on individuals, although the risks rise with BMI* and so are greater for the obese:
• 10 per cent of all cancer deaths among nonsmokers
are related to obesity5
• the risk of Coronary Artery Disease increased
3.6 times for each unit increase in BMI5
• 85 per cent of hypertension is associated with a BMI greater than 255
• the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is about 20 times greater for people who are very obese (BMI over 35), compared to individuals with a BMI of between 18 and 256
• up to 90 per cent of people who are obese have fatty liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is projected to be the leading cause of cirrhosis in the next generation7
• health effects of excess weight are increasingly apparent even in children; the incidence of both type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease used to be rare in children, but is increasing8
• obesity in pregnancy is associated with increased risks of complications for both mother and baby
• social stigmatisation and bullying are common and can, in some cases, lead to depression and other mental health conditions
These diseases ultimately curtail life expectancy.
Severely obese individuals are likely to die on average 11 years earlier (13 years for a severely obese man between 20 and 30 years of age) than those with a healthy weight, comparable to, and in some cases worse than, the reduction in life expectancy from smoking.
Download the report (pdf)