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Thursday, December 11th, 2008 Obesity

One in three adults in the UK will be obese by the time Britain hosts the Olympics, according to a study. Almost 13 million men and women will be grossly overweight by 2012 based on current projections, researchers said.

Experts from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London (UCL) examined data from Health Survey for England studies published between 1993 and 2004. The proportion of men and women who were obese rose “significantly” over this period, from 13.6% to 24% among men and from 16.9% to 24.4% among women, the experts said. If this trend continues then 32% of men and 31% of women will be obese by 2012, they added. Researchers also found 9,000 adults die early every year because of obesity-related illness. Men and women working in manual jobs will be more likely to be obese, with 43% of this group expected to be carrying extra weight, thus widening the health gap between the richest and poorest, they said.

The government introduced the child measuring scheme in 2006 to monitor the impact of strategies to tackle obesity. Initially uptake was low, but in 2007/08, 88% of children in reception (age four to five) and year six (age 10-11) were measured - equating to almost one million children. In reception, 10% of boys and 9% of girls are obese, the figures show. By year six this increases to 20% of boys and 17% of girls - figures that have not shifted since 2006/07. Public health minister, Dawn Primarolo, said: “These figures show that there are still too many children who are overweight and obese - that’s why we’re supporting families to lead healthier lives. Change4Life will provide everyone with the information and support they need to improve their lives.” Dr David Haslam, a GP and clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said prevention strategies alone would not help. “We’re still going to have a bunch of obese people, prevention is no good unless you also have weight management strategies.”

Tam Fry, chair for the Child Growth Foundation, said he was unsurprised that the Department of Health’s measures were failing to reverse the obesity trend. “We had high hopes that there would have been a marked improvement after all the money that is being thrown at the problem but it seems that more radical measures will be needed to reduce obesity levels,” he said.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb said it was “horrifying” that one in three children were overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. “The costs and impact of obesity, both for individuals and the health service are enormous. “The NHS ultimately faces bankruptcy if we fail on this.”

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