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||Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00
26 Aug, (foodconsumer.org) - An estimated 12 million adults and one million children will be clinically obese in Britain by 2010 if urgent steps are not taken to tackle the escalating obesity crisis, according to a government report released yesterday.
The Health Survey for England also predicted that 19 percent of boys and 22 percent of girls aged between two and 15 would be hovering on the brink of obesity. If the predictions come true then the government would have failed in its efforts to tackle childhood obesity.
The report, called Forecasting Obesity 2010 found that in 2003 22 percent of the men were obese, while 43 percent were overweight. In contrast 23 percent women were obese, while only 33 percent were overweight. For the study, adults were classified as obese if their Body Mass Index was 30 or above. Children were taken to be overweight or obese if their BMI was over 95th percentile.
Currently among children, more number of boys are overweight and obese than girls, but the statistics predict that girls will overtake boys ion the weight stakes by 2010.
UK Health Secretary expressed frustration over the report, "We've already stepped in, but there's only so much the government can do. People need to want to change their lifestyles and take responsibility for their health.... With children heading back to school in September, these statistics should give parents food for thought on how to make their kids' lifestyles healthier."
"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," she told BBC News.
Obesity is fast turning into a worldwide crisis and England is proving no exception. Sedentary lifestyle practices are the main reason behind this problem, which has been termed as an epidemic by the World Health Organization. Obesity brings with it a lot of associated problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
A study published last week in New England Journal of Medicine found that even being moderately overweight was lined to early death. British experts predict that for the first time children have shorter life expectancies than their parents.
The number of obese men will go up from the current 4 million to 7 million - for women the numbers are expected to go up from 4.7 million to 6 million, the Health Survey report has forecast. Healthier eating habits and increasing the time spent in physical activities are the answer, experts say.
In England, Caroline Flint is the Minister of Fitness with a special task to tackle obesity. She has advocated that all junk food ads be banned from television since they act as a huge temptation for children and are loaded with weight-boosting calories. However health campaigners say this is no answer.
Tam Fry, board member of the National Obesity Forum, said that the new figures come as no surprise, "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. It may have played around with a few initiatives but real action is still not yet apparent," Fry added. "We welcome today's emphasis on the need to protect children from obesity and particularly young girls."
Maura Gillespie, head of policy and public affairs at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said that food advertising needed to be completely banned. "The government is rightly touting the Small Change, Big Difference agenda as part of the solution - inspiring people to make individual changes which together could make a big difference to the obesity crisis," she said.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has also taken serious note of this report and has asked all departments to work together to handle the looming obesity crisis. He emphasized that a new fitness strategy was needed.
Richard Watts, from the campaign for a children's food bill, said that half measures would not solve the problem, "Obesity has become the nation's number one public health problem. We're not going to solve it by half measures. Progress is so slow because the government seems determined not to upset the powerful food industry."
But all campaigners and activists agree that if current trends are not reversed, England will soon be on par with US on obesity levels. Currently in the US, 32 percent adults and 28 percent children are obese. The spiraling obesity crisis has prompted a ban on sodas and soft drinks in schools in the country.
In England though, the focus is on food advertising, which is recognized as a culprit in tempting children to eat more.
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