The Government has been warned that it must take action to halt the rise in obesity. But the caution came as it was revealed that targets to reduce childhood obesity levels have been pushed back another decade, to 2020.
The largest ever UK report into obesity reveals that excess weight has become normal in what it calls our “obesogenic” society. The Foresight Programme, which drew up the report, added that action was desperately needed to stop the majority of the population from becoming obese - and so living seriously shorter lives - by 2050.
“There is a danger that the moment to act radically and dramatically will be missed,” said Sir David King, head of the Foresight Programme. “It is a problem that is getting worse every year.”
The report gave graphic illustrations of the obesity problem, including the cost of treating it. Being obese, it said, can be considered “a disease in its own right”. It can also cause chronic ill health, including heart problems, diabetes and strokes, and has been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. However, if current trends continue, then by 2050, around 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women and 25 percent of children will be clinically obese. Currently around 23 percent of adults are obese.
The report demanded action from all sections of society, but said that individuals couldn’t be blamed for the obesity problem. Instead, it said that the problem was inevitable in our modern society – where cheap, energy-rich foods and labour saving devices are common, and where we’re more likely to drive than walk.
“We live in a consumer society that encourages us to eat,” said Professor King.
We have a sedentary lifestyle. It’s an environment which means that if we just behave normally, we will become obese. We may only put on a bit of weight a day, but there are 365 days in the year.
The report comes just after the Government dropped its target to halve the rise in childhood obesity by 2010. That target has been replaced by a new one – to reduce the proportion of children who are obese or overweight by 30 percent by 2020.
Public health minister, Dawn Primarolo, said that much had been done – including healthier school lunches and clearer food labelling - to reduce childhood obesity, but admitted that the Government needed to go “further and faster.” Meanwhile the Foresight report flagged up concerns about children playing less team and school sports.
But while the report is shocking – and a real call to arms. It does include suggestions about how we can help. Breastfeeding is one recommendation, as are targeting those who are at most risk, and encouraging more exercise.
Supernanny’s expert nutritionist, Yvonne Wake said parents should “be afraid” by the report, and that obesity was everyone’s responsibility.
“People don’t even need to get up and go anymore,” she said. “Obesity is a huge crisis.”
- There still are some things which parents can do to ease the problem...
- Steer clear of processed foods and instead try to cook your own
- Get your children involved - teach your child to cook food so that they understand what goes into a meal.
- Stop snacking - if people had properly balanced meals, they would be eating something so tasty and satisfying, they wouldn’t need snacks.
- Don’t let children eat in front of the television or on their own.
- Try and eat together – then you will know what your children is eating. Eating as a family also helps socially.”