IT’S not a joke to say obesity is one of the biggest problems facing the NHS — and it’s growing.
Fittingly, after the excesses of the festive period, this week is National Obesity Awareness Week.
Cancer Research UK has looked at historical NHS data and discovered that people in England alone had put on almost 1.5 billion pounds in weight over the last 20 years.
A man’s average weight had increased by 12lbs over the same period, while women’s has gone up 10lbs.
Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at the charity, says: “This excessive weight is putting the NHS under enormous strain and the health of the nation at risk.
“Being overweight or obese is the second-largest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, so it’s important that people are given a helping hand to maintain a healthy weight.
“Making small changes in eating, drinking and being physically active that you can stick to in the long-term is a good way to reach a healthy weight and stay there.
“And the Government can do more to help us all make healthier choices. The sugar tax is a great start and could prevent millions of cases of obesity.
“But the Government also needs to protect the next generation from junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed.
“There’s no silver bullet — we need a range of measures that work together to tackle childhood obesity.
“We have an opportunity to stop this epidemic in its tracks and we need to act now.”
The problem is that most parents of overweight children do not think they are too fat and children do not see themselves as overweight, either, according to a new report.
Only 26% of overweight and obese children aged eight to 15 described themselves as too heavy, while 41% thought they were about the right weight.
Meanwhile, most overweight children were described as being about the right weight by their parents.
There was more realisation when children fell into the obese category, with half of mothers and fathers of obese children saying their child was too heavy.
But that still means half thought their obese child was about the right weight.
In 2015, 28% of children aged two to 15 were either overweight or obese.
The report found that most children aged eight to 15 were not trying to change their weight, but a quarter were trying to lose weight.
The report also found obesity had not changed since 2010 among adults, with 27% of men and women obese and a further 41% of men and 31% of women overweight.
The new report showed some men and women have dangerously-high waist measurements, putting them at increased risk of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes.
The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 charities, royal medical colleges and campaign groups, says: “Obesity is still an urgent public health epidemic costing our NHS billions of pounds every year.
“The majority of adults remain worryingly obese or overweight.
“As our waistlines continue to increase, so do the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other devastating health conditions.
“We must take bold action now by bringing in measures like the soft drinks industry levy, reducing the sugar, salt and fat from everyday foods and restricting junk food marketing to children.”
The new report also found that most children were not doing enough exercise.
Recommendations are for children aged five to 15 to be moderately active for at least an hour every day, such as doing something that gets them warmer, makes them breathe harder and their heart beat faster.
Outside of school activities, less than a quarter are hitting this target.
One in 10 children aged two to 15 were also described as sedentary — doing things such as watching TV — for six hours or more per day on weekdays, rising to 10 on weekends.
Sarah Toule, head of health information at World Cancer Research Fund, says: “This is extremely worrying, as an overweight child is more likely to be that way as an adult, putting them at much higher risk of 11 common types of cancer.
“If everyone was a healthy weight in the UK, 25,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.”