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Britons warned about a 'obesity time bomb'

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-05-20 09:33

Obese people will outnumber those of a healthy size in the United Kingdom by 2040 when 42 million Brits will carry excess weight, according to new research.

Cancer Research UK, which conducted the study, criticized the government for a recent decision to pause regulations aimed at tackling obesity, which puts people at a higher risk of developing conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

"These projections should serve as a wake-up call to the government about the state of our nation's health," said Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.

The UK is the third most obese nation in Europe, behind Turkey and Malta, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 36 percent of Britons are classified as overweight, with 28 percent of them obese, and 3.3 percent severely obese, according to National Health Service data that uses the body mass index, which is derived by comparing an individual's weight and height.

Cancer Research UK forecasts that the number of overweight people is expected to decline marginally by 2040, but those classified obese people will represent 36.2 percent of the population. The number of severely obese people will almost double, to 6.4 percent.

If current trends continue, 42.2 million Brits will be obese or overweight by 2040. This equates to seven in 10 people, up from six in 10 today, and for the first time, there will be more obese people than those of a healthy size.

Mitchell said obesity is the second-biggest preventable risk factor for cancer, after smoking in the UK, and urged the government to reconsider its deferral of planned restrictions on advertising for unhealthy food and drink.

In 2020, the government revealed new regulations for the promotion of junk foods and sugary drinks as part of a campaign to address the so-called obesity time bomb. But the Department of Health announced last week it will delay the measures by at least a year, due to the current cost-of-living crisis.

Rampant inflation means 1.5 million UK households will face food and energy bills that swallow up their disposable income during the next two years, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

"Pausing restrictions on deals like buy-one-get-one-free will allow us to understand its impact on consumers in light of an unprecedented global economic situation," said Public Health Minister Maggie Throup.

But Mitchell said delaying measures that lead to healthier food options will exacerbate the problem of obesity and place pressure on health services.

"Ministers mustn't keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to tackling the obesity crisis," Mitchell said.

Julie Sharp, head of health and patient information at Cancer Research UK, said obesity is on course to eclipse smoking as the biggest cause of cancer.

"Government action is key in making sure that the healthy option is readily available and affordable for people and addressing the wider barriers that prevent people from living healthy lives," said Sharp.

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