UK to urge obese to be "personally responsible" for weight

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Nutrition

A UK Government forecast is to predict that almost one third of the
British population will be dangerously fat, with junk food and lack
of exercise to blame, according to reports in The Independent.

Officials from the Department of Health are reported to be ready to urge adults to take "personal responsibility" for their weight, a move that is in stark contrast with recent suggestions that the food industry was behind the obesity epidemic and should exercise "corporate social responsibly"​, and virtually absolving consumers of accountability.

Only last week, US paediatrician Robert Lustig, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco said that the "toxic environment" of Western diets causes hormonal imbalances that encourage overeating. The comments were heavily publicised by many consumer news services.

Blame for the startling rise in obesity, particularly amongst children, has focussed on many sectors of the food industry. However, despite culpability being heaped firmly on the shoulders on the food industry by Dr. Lustig and others, many experts accept that obesity is a multifaceted problem.

However, Professor Michael Lean, holder of the Rank Chair of Human Nutrition at the University of Glasgow, told FoodNavigator.com last week that the food industry must display "corporate social responsibly"​ when it comes to the obesity issue.

Professor Lean told FoodNavigator.com that obesity is due to two things - the amount of fat as a proportion of calories consumed, and the level of physical activity. Lean also said that consumers do not generally make food choices that are informed by nutritional knowledge

However, the UK's Department of Health (DoH) is to put the rise in obesity down to junk food and a lack of physical activity, and is set to urge the public to take "personal responsibility" for their lifestyles. Health care providers will also be urged to advise overweight and obese patients to cut fat from their diet - statements that appear to acknowledge the wider issues.

The forecast will say that by 2010 more than 14 million Britons, ranging from the cradle to the grave, will have dangerous weight levels, according to The Independent.

Worryingly, the numbers of overweight and obese children are set to continue to rise, if the forecast holds true. By 2010 19 per cent of boys from two to 15, and 22 per cent of girls in the same age range will be dangerously overweight.

Obesity currently costs the British National Health Service (NHS) around 1.6bn a year and the UK economy a further 2.3bn of indirect costs. If this trend continues, the annual cost to the economy could be 3.6bn a year by 2010.

Consumers concerned about weight issues should read the labels and eat more fresh produce, said a DoH spokeman.

"Tackling obesity is a government-wide priority,"​ the DoH spokesman told The Independent newspaper. "But every individual has responsibility for their own health."

"Our public health agenda is the first concerted attempt to seriously tackle rising levels of obesity. Huge progress has been made already in starting to change attitudes through the Five-A-Day campaign, the school fruit scheme, and more investment in school food."

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