According to official government strategy published in 2008:
“Britain is in the grip of an epidemic. Almost 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children are either overweight or obese……These figures will rise to almost 9 in 10 adults and 2/3 of children by 2050.”
“We are facing a public health problem that the experts have told us is comparable with climate change in both its scale and complexity”
The rationale for this strategy is a report entitled “Tackling Obesities: Future Choices” prepared by Foresight which answers directly to the Government Chief Scientist and the Cabinet. This report definitely concludes that:
“….being overweight or obese increases the risk of a wide range of chronic diseases principally type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease including stroke as well as cancer “.
This policy has been continued and re-affirmed by the present government. In his introduction to “Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England” (13 October 2011)
Andrew Lansley wrote;
“Excess weight is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, adding costs to the NHS”
“Overweight and obesity are a direct consequence of eating and drinking more calories and using up too few…..for most of us who are overweight and obese, eating and drinking less is the key to weight loss”
“The Government….will ensure that local effort is supported by high quality data and evidence of what works”
The report itself was quite clear about the risks associated with obesity and states categorically that
“….compared with a healthy weight man, an obese man is:
- Five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- Three times more likely to develop cancer of the colon
- More than 2.5 times likely to develop high blood pressure – a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
The corresponding values for women are:
- Almost 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- More than 4 times more likely to develop blood pressure
- More than 3 times more likely to have a heart attack”
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Evidence (NICE) provides the following advice:
“Diets that are recommended for sustainable weight loss, in combination with expert support and intensive follow-ups, are:
– those with 600 calories/day deficit (i.e. they contain 600 calories less than the person needs to stay the same weight)
– those which reduce calories by lowering the fat content (low fat diets)
Because fat is a concentrated form of energy – there are 2.5 times as many calories in a gram of fat as there are in a gram of sugar. As a consequence, most reducing diets tend to be relatively low in fat.”
The NHS Choices website presents the following information:
“Just under1/3 of women, 32%were overweight (a BMI of 25-30), and 42% of men were overweight….
Being overweight or obese can also shorten life expectancy…..
Obesity is treated by losing weight, which can be achieved through a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and exercise”
The conclusions/messages are quite clear and unequivocal:
- Obesity and overweight seriously impair health
- Health can be improved by reducing body weight
- Weight loss can be achieved by lowering calorie intake, with specific emphasis on reducing the consumption of fat.
Can these conclusions actually be substantiated? There is plenty of evidence which shows that these conclusions are fundamentally flawed. The next instalment will explain.