Money Matters - Simplified

Britain soon to become nation of fatties

According to the figures published in the Department of Health's ‘Forecasting Obesity to 2010’ report, more than 12 million adults and more than 1 million children will be classified as ‘extremely fat’ in Britain after four years.

The report revealed some alarming figures, which indicated that one in every three men and more than one in every four women will suffer obesity by 2010. As per the Health department data, ‘overweight’ is already a problem in 22 per cent of the male population over 16 years (4.3 million) and 23 per cent of women (4.8 million). And the predicted figures are set to increase by 33 per cent of men (6.6 million) and 28 per cent of women (6 million).

Currently, the overweight problem is widespread among boys under 16 than among girls, but the projections suggest that, after four years, the proportion of obese girls will be increased from 16% to 22%, and of boys from 17% to 19%. In adults, working-class females are possibly more obese than their middle-class counterparts (with a difference of at least 10%), but the figures are broadly alike for men in different classes.

A person is classified as ‘obese’ if his or her body mass index (BMI), the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height, in metres, is 30 or over.

From the clinical point of view, obesity is typically evaluated by measuring BMI, waist circumference, and evaluating the presence of risk factors and comorbidities. In epidemiological studies BMI alone is used to define obesity.

BMI is a simple and frequently used method for estimating body fat:

A BMI less than 18.5 is ‘underweight’
A BMI of 18.5 - 24.9 is ‘normal weight’
A BMI of 25.0 - 29.9 is ‘overweight’
A BMI of 30.0 - 39.9 is ‘obese’
A BMI of 40.0 or higher is ‘severely (or morbidly) obese’.

In a move to curb the obesity rate in UK, the health campaigners urged British Government to ban junk food advertisments before 9pm. Concerned with the "most accurate figures" published by the Govt., the parents are also being urged to plan their children's diet with care.

"With children heading back to school in September, these statistics should give parents food for thought on how to make their kid's lifestyles healthier," said the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt. "We are intervening and helping to make a difference, but we want today's figures to act as a stark reminder of the problem we and our children will face if we don't act now and start making healthier lifestyle choices."

Interestingly, the figures also revealed the profound regional differences on the obesity, as Yorkshire and the Humber will have the highest proportion of obese adults, with 39% of men and 27% of women by 2010. However, in London only 17% of men will be obese, and in the south-east of England only 17% of women will face the problem.

However, the government has agreed that the Office of Communications, usually known as Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator should help to draw up a voluntary code for advertisers and also said that this could become mandatory in 2007 if the volunteer code proved unsatisfactory.

But, the government watchdogs,like the Food Standards Agency, the British Heart Foundation and the National Obesity Forum have warned that these options will not solve the problem. They believe adverts should be prohibited before the watershed to ensure that teens up to the age of 15 are protected.

About the predicted figures, Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, said, "The figures are tragic but no one should be surprised. The Government has been announcing for years what needs to be done to fight the nation's fat - but then has done very little to achieve it."

In her response, Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, "We've already stepped in but there's only so much the government can do." Stressing on the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own health, she further said, "People need to want to change their lifestyles and take responsibility for their health."