Obesity: The facts, causes and effects on our health

It’s no secret that being overweight can lead to a number of health risks and the amount of obese people in the UK is on the rise. By the year 2035, cases of obesity could increase by 38,500 a year, according to a recent study by The Obesity Health Alliance. The organisation, which includes 30 national health charities including Cancer Research UK, The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and the British Heart Foundation, have warned that as a result, more than 7.6 million new cases of obesity-related diseases could be diagnosed in the UK alone. This alarming statistic has brought into play how important it is to focus on improving our health as a nation.


The Problem

More and more people are becoming overweight due to poor diet and lifestyle choices. With the rise in popularity of smartphones, internet surfing and other sofa-side entertainment, plus a number of other factors such as office-based jobs, less and less people are taking part in regular exercise.

Another major factor that causes obesity is diet. Readily available processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, as well as sugary drinks, alcohol consumption and large portion sizes are leading to an excessive daily amount of calories, well above the recommended daily allowance.

What’s more worrying is that children are inheriting their parents’ ‘eating too much, moving too little’ way of life. A study from Public Health England in March 2016 showed that 1 in 3 children aged 10–11 years is overweight. Many of these children will grow into obese adults, who will be at a higher risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening diseases.


Tackling Obesity

To try and fight the epidemic, the report is calling on the Government to introduce a strong childhood obesity strategy as soon as possible. This includes limiting junk food ads on TV before the 9pm watershed, applying the same rules to online marketing campaigns, and setting industry targets for the amount of sugar and fat in food.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention and member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These numbers are shocking. And it’s difficult to think of the impact this will have on public health and an already strained NHS. Without bold action, the next generation will face more disease and live shorter lives.”

“Kids are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food and if we are to give our children the chance for better and healthier lives, it’s vital the Government’s childhood obesity strategy restricts this kind of marketing.”


What Can We Do?

To fight against obesity, it is essential to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle. The report states that just a few small lifestyle changes could make a huge difference to the overall health of the nation.

Reduce your sugar intake
Making small changes like cutting out fast food and drinking water instead of fizzy drinks can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar you consume.

Cook from scratch
Opting for a home-cooked meal instead of processed ready-meals will cut out those pesky additives and will be much more nutritious.

Move more
Make a conscious effort to get your family to take regular exercise. Playing sports can be great for the mind and mental health, as well as your body.

Not only will adopting a healthier life impact your own health for the better, but introducing these values to children will help to decrease their risk of obesity-related illnesses at an older age. Read our article on how to encourage healthy eating in children for more tips.

To find out more about the causes of obesity and how to lose weight, check out the NHS weight loss plan.