Spiralling obesity levels have left Britain the sixth fattest nation in the world, with rates rising faster even than those in the US, a new report shows. The analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) shows levels in the ...and more »
Spiralling obesity levels have left Britain the sixth fattest nation in the world, with rates rising faster even than those in the US, a new report shows.
The analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) shows levels in the UK have risen by 92 per cent in just over two decades - by far the steepest rise among countries with an obesity problem.
Experts said Britain was “sleepwalking” into a health crisis, after aping the US in adopting a ‘supersize’ culture, picked up from watching American television and films.
The figures show 27 per cent of adults in Britain are now obese - a rise from 14 per cent in 1991. In addition, 36 per cent are overweight.
It means the UK is now the fattest nation in Western Europe, with obesity rates twice those of countries like Italy and Sweden.
The UK is close to the top of the OECD obesity charts
And the study, which tracks 35 industralized nations, shows Britain is now sixth worst for obesity across the globe. This is a rise from 10th place since the research was carried out two years ago, when UK obesity rates stood at 24.9 per cent.
The new report shows the US still tops the obesity league tables, with rates of 38.2 per cent, followed by Mexico at 33.3 per cent. But the rise in the UK far outpaces that of any of the nations with an obesity problem, with a 92 per cent increase in obesity levels since 1991, compared with a rise of 65 per cent in the US.
Mark Pearson, deputy director of employment, labour and social affairs at the OECD, said obesity had become “the new normal” in Britain, with much of the culture imported from the United States.
“In the UK we follow the lead from across the Atlantic. We are more influenced by the US than people living in Italy or other parts of Europe.
“You don’t need to be an expert to know that in Britain we watch a lot more American TV and movies than in France or Italy,” he said.
“But the other part of the problem is we didn’t take it seriously for many years. We let it get established. It is normal now for people in Britain to be enormously overweight,” he said.
“They look around and they see this is normal, in a way that you don’t see in other European countries,” Mr Pearson said.
Mapped England’s obesity hotspots
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, accused ministers of repeatedly ignoring warnings that Britain was “sleepwalking into obesity”.
“One could weep over the figures, the result of successive governments who have, for the last thirty years, done next to nothing to tackle obesity,” he said.
“Ten years ago a government department report stated that the nation was sleepwalking into obesity - but no mnister, either then or since, has woken up to the fact,” he said.
Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, a coaltion of more than 40 medical royal colleges and charities, said the trends were “shocking and sobering”.
She said action was needed to tackle the problem early in life, by protecting children from junk food advertising
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Most countries are facing rising levels of obesity, putting pressure on health and social care systems. While England has the worst rates of adult obesity in western Europe, our plans to tackle this are amongst the most ambitious.”
She said health officials were working with industry to produce healthier food, and delivering campaigns to encourage changes in people’s lifestyles.
“It’s taken many years for us to reach this point and change will not happen overnight,” she warned. OECD modelling suggests that by 2030, 35 per cent of Britons are likely to be obese - and the figure could reach 40 per cent if historic trends continued.