Being labelled as ‘the fat man of Europe’ is not one of the UK’s proudest moments, but, it’s time to accept some bitter home truths. We are currently facing a public health crisis with an estimated one in four British adults being classed as obese.
The UK really is carrying extra weight for Europe with the highest levels of obesity, beating countries such as Germany, France and Spain.
No wonder the NHS is under such strain as obesity and its consequences costs £5.1 billion a year. This is only going to increase. New reports suggest that this figure will double by 2030 to an estimated annual cost of £12 billion a year!
With 30,000 deaths in adults per year in the UK and an increase of 1.4% in the last decade, the issue is only going to get worse unless a huge change is made.
So, with that in mind, we look at the causes, the knock-on effects and what can be done in the future to reduce these shocking statistics.
What is obesity?
Obesity is a chronic condition in which a person is extremely overweight.
It is often caused by excessive consumption of sugar which converts to fat. This fat is stored within our bodies, transpiring into weight gain.
There are various different methods that can be used to measure obesity, with the most common method being the B.M.I scale.
B.M.I stands for Body Mass Index. This statistical measurement can be used to assess whether your weight is healthy for your age and height.
A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5-24.9. A BMI of 25.0-29.9 indicates that you are overweight. Anything over 30.0 suggests that you are obese.
Effects of obesity
The reason that obesity costs the NHS so much every year is because obesity leads to many other health issues.
Some consequential conditions include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, gallbladder disease, gout, breathing problems and osteoarthritis, just to name a few.
Most commonly, obesity leads to diabetes where there is an 80-85% risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to the added fat around the abdomen.
Damage can also be caused to your mental health. Many obese people suffer from emotional effects such as depression and low self-esteem.
What is the cause?
Studies suggest that a major reason for the alarming increase in obesity in the UK is due to ‘obesogenic environments’. These are environments which do not promote healthy living through diet or exercise.
They are typically ‘urban’ areas, however, our research suggests otherwise.
We have created an interactive map displaying the percentage of obese people in different areas across the UK.
Scroll over the map and take a look at how obese your local area is:
Some of the most obese areas in the UK are found in the North with the Western Isles, Orkney and Barnsley topping the list. Whilst ‘urban’ areas like Richmond upon Thames, Camden and Tower Hamlets ranked the least obese in the UK.
Other reasons for this rise in obesity are lifestyle, genetics, lack of exercise and, most importantly, diet.
The problem is that many of us Brits consume over half of our recommended daily sugar intake which should be no more than 5%. This equates to a maximum of 30 grams of sugar a day.
This could be because many sugary food products are misleading. Brands will claim that the product is low in fat to suggest that it is healthy. What it lacks in fat, it makes up for in sugar.
A way around this is to disguise the sugar by using alternative names such as sucrose and fructose.
Our over-indulgence of sugar has lead the British Government to announce the introduction of a sugar tax in an attempt to tackle this obesity crisis. This will place a higher tax on sugary drinks from April 2018. The proceeds will be used to double sports funding for schools.
You don’t have to wait until then to take this matter into your own hands. Regular exercise, decreasing your daily sugar intake and a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve your health and reduce the risk of obesity.
The British Dietician Association offer further information on how to lose weight healthily.