Posted on Nov 19, 2019, 5 p.m.
The obesity rate has doubled in the past 20 years to affect some 13 million people; almost 30% of the population in England is now obese adding pressure on the NHS through its related diseases.
Experts suggest the increase in the number of overweight people is a damning indictment of the government’s failure to tackle the obesity crisis: During 1997 in England around 6.96 million people aged 16+ were obese which jumped to over 13 million by 2018 according to analysis from Diabetes UK; and during the same timeframe the amount of people aged 16+ with a BMI of at least 30 increased from 18% to 29%.
The sharp increase is adding strain to the NHS as it is leading to more patients needing care for obesity related conditions including but not limited to heart attack, stroke, knee replacements, and certain cancers.
“The rise in obesity in England is alarming, and shines a harsh and necessary light on the need for urgent, decisive, action from government and industry to make our society healthier,” said Chris Askew, Diabetes UK’s chief executive.
According to The Obesity Health Alliance the increased prevalence of foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar are an important factor. “In the last 20 years our food environment has become increasingly flooded with calorific and sugary processed food and we are now paying the price with our health,” said Caroline Cerny, the OHA’s alliance lead.
The number of people with obesity exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2008, since then it has continued to increase to reach 13 million in 2017, according to Diabetes UK data. The figures were calculated by appyling statistics from the annual Health Survey for England which showed the percentage of the population who are obese to data from the Office for National Statistics for the size of England’s population every year since 1997.
“People want to make healthier choices. But without bold measures in place to support this on a societal level, individuals are left confused, stigmatised and unsupported,” added Askew. “It’s easy to blame individuals, but we need to look at the environment we all exist within to understand how we’ve reached this point. And we need bold leadership from the very top to turn the tide on the obesity and type 2 diabetes crises.”
“This report offers a truly damning picture of the state of our nation’s health. Obesity not only drastically diminishes the quality of people’s lives, often leading to devastating diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers and causing people to die prematurely. It is a complex, chronic, progressive disease driven by factors such as genetics, environment, and health inequalities. It is governments, not individuals, which can have an impact on the food environment through regulation and taxation, and by controlling availability and affordability,” says Rachel Batterham, the Royal College of Physicians’ special adviser on obesity.
The increasing spread of obesity has been accompanied with an increase in the number of diabetes diagnosis; being obese represents an 80-85% risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK estimates that there are 3.7 million diabetics in England, and about 850,000 of those are unaware that they even have it.
“We need bold leadership from the very top to turn the tide on the obesity and type 2 diabetes crises,” says Chris Askew, Diabetes UK
Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens warns that obesity is the new smoking, and calls for stronger action to reduce sugar intake and promotion of healthier diets.
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