With more and more people gaining weight and becoming obese in the UK, the time has come to recognise that we are in crisis. The following five truths highlight some of the key difficulties we face in the fight against obesity:
1. Almost two-thirds of the population in the UK is overweight or obese
Being overweight has become the norm in Britain, but studies show that we are unaware of the changes because it happened gradually and we are simply used to seeing overweight people. A quarter of us can be described as obese, defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI) reading of 30 or above.
2. Obesity is cutting our lives short
Being obese isn’t just bad for your health – it could actually take years off of your life. Those who are moderately obese (with a BMI of 30-35) can lose 2-4 years, while those who are severely obese (BMI of 40-45) could lose 10 years. These worrying statistics are predicted to affect today’s children especially, with over a fifth of five-year-olds and a third of 11-year-olds now considered overweight or obese.
3. Obesity might bankrupt the NHS
The NHS currently spends £5bn a year on conditions such as stroke and diabetes that have been linked to obesity. This amount is expected to rise to £15bn within a few decades. Type 2 diabetes is already taking up 10% of the NHS’s budget.
4. You don’t have as much control over your weekly shop as you may think
Technology now allows scientists to track the movements of a shopper’s eye, logging exactly which shelves are looked at first and which ones hold our attention. This means that it isn’t just the packaging and marketing of food products persuading you to purchase, it’s where they are in the shop. Food companies pay a premium to sell their products on end-displays as these account for 30% of supermarket sales. So, even if you enter the shop with good intentions, you may leave with fizzy drinks and biscuits anyway.
5. Your brain, not your stomach, tells you when you’re full
An incredible experiment carried out by Dr Suzanne Higgs at Birmingham University shows that hunger is often all in the mind. The experiment involved serving a group of amnesiacs and a group of control participants a large lunch of sandwiches and cakes. After they had finished, the table was cleared and left empty for 10 minutes before another round of lunch was presented. Those in the control group, with no memory problems, refused the food as they were full, but those with amnesia continued to eat the second lunch – proving that it was their brains, not their stomachs, making the decision to eat more.