Results have been published in the Lancet Medical Journal from a pooling by researchers of over 2000 population based studies, with measurements for height and weight. This shows a staggering increase in the number of obese girls from five million in 1975 to 50 million by 2016. For boys, the increase was from six million in 1975 to 74 million in 2016.
Professor Majjid Ezzati, from Imperial College London, whose team assisted in the pooling of the data, has criticised the “high income countries” as being “reluctant to use taxes and industry regulations to change eating and drinking behaviours to tackle childhood obesity.”
The Obesity Health Alliance in the UK has highlighted that 18 companies promoting crisps, confectionary and sugary drinks spent a staggering £143 million on advertising in in 2016. During that same year, the government spent 27 times less than this figure (£5.2 million) on its Change 4 Life campaign. When in contrast, £12.3 million was spent on advertising Dairy Milk in that year alone, what chance does such a campaign realistically stand of making an impact?
The Change 4 Life campaign was launched by Public Health England to encourage parents to reduce the amount of sugar their children have in their diets, by swapping certain items for healthier options. Too much sugar in a child’s diet can lead to tooth decay. It’s not only their teeth that suffer, with obese children more likely to grow into obese adults. The vicious cycle then continues, putting them at an increased risk of a number of serious health problems including heart disease and strokes, type two diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain types of cancer.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing foot ulcers and for some, when these don’t heal and can lead to amputation. Dan Howarth, who is Head of Care at Diabetes UK has said that “The record rates of diabetes-related amputations we’re seeing are being largely fuelled by the increasing numbers of people living with type two diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity and so, in most cases, can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
The charity has said that whilst most cases of diabetes are in themselves avoidable, four in five amputations could still have been prevented if the right care had been taken. Worryingly, official figures from Public Heath England have shown that 23 amputations were carried out every day in 2016, and that nine in ten cases were as a result of type two diabetes. Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum has confirmed that “People are losing limbs and going blind because of diabetes”. He has said that he has been “left numb with fury that we have got to this stage because we failed to tackle obesity.”
Researchers from the World Obesity Federation believe that the global cost of treating patients with illnesses caused by obesity will be higher than a staggering £920 billion per year from 2025. Something more needs to be done to tackle this obesity epidemic. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England has said that “The evidence is clear, that just telling people what to do won’t work. Whilst education and information are important, deeper actions are needed to help us lower calorie consumption and achieve healthier diets.”