What is the UK obesity crisis, how does alcohol affect our weight and how can childhood obesity be prevented?

OBESITY is a big problem in the UK, as it's estimated to impact one in four adults and a fifth of ten to 11-year-olds.

In addition, a staggering one-third of children aged two to 15 are classified as overweight or obese – so just how bad is the UK's obesity crisis?

What is the UK obesity crisis?

The term "obese" describes a person who's very overweight, with a lot of body fat.

It's a common problem in the UK that's estimated to affect around one in every four adults.

In 2016 according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nearly 27 per cent of adults in the United Kingdom were obese, the highest proportion in Western Europe and a 92 per cent increase since 1996.

It's claimed that by 2030, half of the UK could be obese if the trends continue.

In September 2018, a UN study reported the UK was the third-fattest nation in Europe – behind just Turkey and Malta with an obesity rate of 27.8 per cent.

And in December the UK was crowned the 26th fattest country in the world.

On May 1, 2019, it emerged that Leeds had become the first UK city to report a drop in childhood obesity.

Teaching parents to say "No" to their children helped reverse the trend while kids in primary school were also only offered healthy foods as part of the successful scheme.

How can childhood obesity be prevented?

According to the Government, younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer.

It's estimated around one in every five children aged ten to 11 year olds are obese, with a third of children aged two to 15 overweight or obese.

And Public Health England says, nearly half of kids are overweight in parts of the UK, with seven out of the fattest areas in Britain located in London.

According to PHE, the ten worst areas for ten to 11 year olds in Britain are Brent, Barking and Dagenham, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Westminster, Southwark, Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets, and Knowsley.

There are many simple measures that can be taken to prevent childhood obesity, from respecting your child's appetite – and not insisting they finish their meal – to being a good role model, as children learn by example.

At least 60 minutes of exercise each day is also recommended, along with more sleep and reduced screen time.

Other steps include providing child-size portions and healthy snacks, steering clear of high-calorie foods and swapping sugary drinks for water.

What is the definition of being clinically obese?

While there are many ways in which a person's health in relation to their weight can be classified, but the most widely used method is body mass index (BMI).

BMI is a measure of whether you're a healthy weight for your height.

An individual's body mass index is calculated using by age, gender, height, weight and activity levels.

For most adults, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 to 39.9 is obese and 40 or above is severely obese.

What is the Government doing about obesity?

In 2005, chef Jamie Oliver began a campaign to reduce unhealthy food choices in British schools and to get children more excited about eating lower calorie nutritious food instead.

His efforts to bring radical change to the school meals system, shown in the series Jamie's School Dinners, challenged the junk-food culture by showing schools that they could serve healthy, cost-efficient meals that kids enjoyed eating.

The programme prompted 271,677 people to sign an online petition on the Feed Me Better website, which was delivered to Downing Street on March 30 2005.

As a result, the government added an extra £280million to help with the school meals plan, and currently fried foods are only allowed to be served twice a week and soft drinks are no longer available.

In the 2016 budget, the British Government announced the introduction of a sugar tax on the soft drinks industry, which came into effect in April 2018.

Beverage manufacturers are taxed according to the volume of sugar-sweetened beverages they produce or import, which will generate an estimated £520million a year in additional tax revenue to be spent on doubling existing funding for sport in UK primary schools.

How does alcohol affect our weight?

The World Health Organisation found that the UK is now the third fattest nation in Europe.

It is thought that Britain's drink problem is linked to this.

The UK's alcohol consumption levels are among the highest in Europe – with each person drinking an average of 10.7 litres of pure alcohol every year, compared to the European average of 8.6.

The reason that booze is so bad for the waistline is because it is made from sugar or starch and is "empty calories" – meaning they have no nutritional value.

Drinking also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.

The average pint of beer has the same amount of calories as a large slice of pizza – a whopping 197 calories.


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Does obesity fuel childhood asthma?

Children are 30 per cent more likely to develop the lung condition if they are overweight.

According to the team at Duke University in North Carolina, one in 10 asthma cases were linked to weight gain.

Around 100,000 British children have the disease because of their weight.

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