CONTENTS

 

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Definitions of ‘obese’

 

Obesity levels in the UK

Obesity and income in the UK

Obesity and geography in the UK

Obesity and job status in the UK

 

Financial costs of diet-induced obesity and ill health.

 

Calorie chart – what puts the weight on, what takes it off

 

Combating obesity – small personal steps

 

XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX

 

Definitions of ‘obese’

 

Obesity is defined by one’s Body Mass Index (BMI).  The BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.  A 1.9 metre tall person who weighs 90 kilograms would have a BMI of 90 / 1.9 squared, or 24.9.  A BMI of 20-25 is defined as normal, 25-30 is overweight, and over 30 is obese. 

 

The BMI index was developed by Adolphe Quetelet, a 19th century Belgian scientist.  (ABC of Obesity (ed Naveed Sattar and Mike Lean, 2007, Blackwell Publishing).  The main disadvantage of using this index is that muscular people such as rugby players can also have a high BMI.

 

Alternative markers of obesity include waist measurement, or waist to hip ratio.  Over 40’’, or 100 cm. waist, is risky for men; for women it is 35’’ or 88 cm.  Others look at the waist-to-hip ratio – ideally around 1.0 for men and 0.9 for women.  However it can be hard to get an accurate measurement of waist circumference, which may vary during the day anyway.  A person’s waist is generally smallest in the morning, and increases after a dinner meal in the evening.  Hip circumference is also increased by muscle mass as well as by fat.

 

Weight and height are more easily measured, so the BMI index remains popularly used.

 

Obesity is closely linked to a poor diet, with low levels of fresh fruit and vegetables and high intake of ‘junk food’, rich in calories, fat, salt, and sugar.  The diseases caused by obesity represent the principal costs of a poor-diet, both to the individual and to society.

 

Obesity levels in the UK

 

NOTES – 1) Girls / boys are persons aged 18 or less.

2) Where figures are not sex-specific, identical figures are given for both sexes and the figures starred*.

3) # Figures refer to girls / boys aged 11 to 15

4) Percentages who are ‘overweight’ do not include those who are ‘obese’.

 

year

Overweight women

Overweight men

Obese women

Obese men

Overweight girls

Overweight boys

Obese girls

Obese boys

Early 1970s

 

 

 

 

6%

6%

Under 2%*

Under 2%*

1980

39%

32%

6%*

8%

 

 

 

 

1985

 

 

7%

12%

7%

7%

 

 

1990

40%

40%

14.0%

14.0%

 

 

 

 

1995

39%

49%

17.5%

15.5%

14%#

14%#

12.0%

10.9%

2000

39%

48%

21.8%

21.1%

14%#

14%#

14.1%

14.4%

2005

42%*

42%*

24.8%

23.1%

 

 

18.1%

18.0%

2006

38%*

38%*

24%*

24%*

 

 

16.0%

16.0%

2009

 

 

23.0%

23.0%

 

 

15.0%

15.0%

2010

 

 

23.9%

22.1%

 

 

 

 

2012

 

 

25.0%

24.0%

 

 

 

 

year

Overweight women

Overweight men

Obese women

Obese men

Overweight girls

Overweight boys

Obese girls

Obese boys

 

Obesity and income in the UK

 

The Food magazine, July/September 2007, p.16, noted that “Children’s obesity levels are closely linked to their family income”.

 

For the UK, 2007, girls’/boys’ obesity levels per income quintile are as below,

Income quintile

% girls obese

% boys obese

Lowest

8.2%

6.0%

2nd lowest

8.9%

5.2%

Middle

5.9%

4.5%

2nd Highest

5.6%

4.1%

Highest

3.9%

4.2%

 

Obesity and geography in the UK

 

In concordance with the link between obesity and income, the geography of obesity within the UK shows a clear link between poor areas and excess weight, and between affluent areas and slimness.

 

For 2005, the slimmest ten local authority areas were (% obese in brackets), Kensington and Chelsea (11.5%), Westminster (11.8%), Camden (12.5%), Hammersmith and Fulham (12.7%), Wandsworth (13%), Richmond, Surrey (13.2%), Islington (13.8%), Barnet (14%), Lambeth (14.1%), and Elmbridge, Surrey (14.3%).

 

The most obese local authority areas are tabulated below, for 2005 and 2008.  Percentages are for the proportion of adults in each area who are obese (BMI of 30 or more)

 

Local authority area

Obesity %, rank 2005

Obesity %, rank 2008

Atherstone, Warwicks

 

29.6, 6th=

Barking & Dagenham

 

28.7, 12th=

Barnsley, Yorks

21.4, 7th=

 

Bolsover,Derbyshire

21.4, 7th=

 

Cannock, Staffs

 

29.6, 6th=

Corby, Northampton

22.1, 2nd

 

Doncaster, Yorks

 

29.0, 11th

Easington, Durham

22.4, 1st

 

Gateshead, Tyneside

 

30.7, 1st=

Grimsby, Lincs

 

29.3, 8th

Knowsley, Liverpool

21.7, 3rd=

 

Nuneaton

 

29.8, 5th

Redcar, Teeside

 

29.6, 6th=

Rochester, Kent

 

30.0, 4th

Sandwell, W Midlands

21.6, 5th

28.7, 12th=

Scunthorpe, Lincs

 

29.1, 9th=

Sedgefield, Durham

21.7, 3rd=

 

Sittingbourne, Kent

 

30.2, 3rd

South Tyneside

21.6, 6th

 

Sunderland

21.2, 9th=

 

Tamworth, W Midlands

 

30.7, 1st=

Wansbeck, Northumberl’d

21.2, 9th=

 

 

All these areas are in less-affluent parts of Britain.  Mostly, these areas are industrial conurbations (e.g.Birmingham) or docklands estuaries (e.g.Thames, Mersey, Tyne, Humber estuaries). 

 

Note also the increase in top obesity scores between 2005 and 2008.  So good and bad news for Sandwell; it slipped from 5th most obese area to just 12th most obese, but its % obese rose from 21.6 to 28.7.

 

The Health Survey for England (2006) published regional figures for obesity in England, also indicating a link between obesity and low income; the wealthier south-east was slimmer than the north-east.

 

Region

% obese adults (2002)

% obese adults (2006)

% obese children (2002)

London

20.4

20.0

13.4

South East

20.3

24.0

18.2

South West

19.2

26.0

14.0

East Anglia

20.9

24.0

14.1

West Midlands

24.2

30.0

15.8

East Midlands

25.1

27.0

14.5

Yorkshire and Humberside

22.6

26.0

11.4

North West

21.6

NA

15.0

North East

23.9

28.0

18.3

England

 

22.0

 

Northern Ireland

 

24.0

 

Scotland

 

25.5

 

Wales

 

21.0

 

 

Obesity and job status in the UK

 

UK obesity is (inversely) related to social status. In 1998, 12% of professional men and 15% of professional women were obese. For those of managerial and technical status, the 1998 figures were 16% of men and 20% of women. For skilled non-manual, obesity affected 16% of men and 19% of women. For skilled manual workers, 21% of men and 26% of women were obese. For semi-skilled workers, 16% of men and 28% of women were obese. For unskilled manual workers, 19% of men and 31% of women were obese. Note that for men, obesity rates do not rise markedly as one descends the status scale of work once ‘skilled manual’ is reached, but for women, obesity rates rise fairly steadily right down to ‘unskilled manual. Heavier manual work by lower-status men probably contributes to this pattern.

 

In 2004 The Economist stated (20/11/04, p.32) that “Some 28% of [UK] women in the bottom social class are obese – twice the rate amongst those in the top class”. This edition of The Economist also noted, “Obese children, especially girls, are more likely to come from lower social groups, which also eat about 50% less fruit and vegetables than professionals do”.

 

However a report in The Independent on Sunday in 2007 (‘Young, middle class, and fat, 22 July 2007, pp.8-9) suggested the reverse, that “Children in families where household income is greater than £33,000 are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than youngsters from families with the lowest incomes.  And in higher income households, the longer a mother worked each week, the greater the risk of the child being overweight”.  Employing a nanny whilst the mother worked made child obesity even more likely; the father’s employment hours made no difference.  Children in a working-mother household are likely to snack more and watch more TV (see below, possible causes of obesity).

 

Financial costs of diet-induced obesity and ill health.

 

The total contribution made by obesity to UK medical costs appears to be rising quite fast.  Some estimates reported in the media are given below.

 

Year estimate made

Cost of obesity to the UK economy –

£ billions

1995

1.7

1999

2.0

2001

2.5

2003

2.6

2004

7.4 to the NHS

2008

 

10 to the UK as a whole, inc. 7.7 to the NHS

 

Academic publications have provided the following estimates,

 

The Institute of Optimum Nutrition (www.ion.ac.uk), gave figures from Fairweather-Tait S J (2003, Human Nutrition and Food Research – opportunities and challenges in the post genomic era, Philosophical Transactions, Series B, Vol. 358, pp. 1709 -1727).  This stated, ‘It is estimated that the current healthcare costs of directly diet-related diseases is in the order of £13.5 billion’.

 

The Food Magazine, Vol.65, April/June 2006, p.11, provided an estimate for total obesity costs in the UK that ranged from £11.1 billion up to £18.2 billion.  This cost-range comprised the following elements:

 

Amounts in £s billions

Direct medical costs of obesity-caused diseases (NHS and private spending)  2.3 – 7.1

Social care costs for these diseases  1.0

Lost productivity  3.4

Medical, Social, and other indirect costs  3.4 – 5.7

Childhood overweight and obesity  1.0

 

Eurofood, 17 October 2007, stated (p.21) ‘It is anticipated that obesity could cost as much as £45bn a year by 2050, to pay for growing incidents (sic) of diabetes, strokes and heart disease, as well as loss of earnings by those too heavy to work’.  Eurofood does not state whether this £45bn figure is inflation adjusted – if not, it would roughly equal the Food Magazine figure of £20bn for 2006, assuming future UK inflation of around 2% – 2.5%.

 

ABC of Obesity (ed Naveed Sattar and Mike Lean, 2007, Blackwell Publishing) estimated the costs of obesity to the UK economy as between £3.5bn and £6.4bn.

 

The Times (16 September 2009, p.24) reported that obesity in the UK was contributing towards a £599.3 million annual bill for diabetes drugs.  Over 90% of the 2.4 million known diabetes cases in the UK are Type II diabetes (there are estimated to be a further 0.5 million undiagnosed diabetes cases).  Obesity is the major contributor to the rise in Type II diabetes cases.

 

Not only are the numbers of people with obesity rising in most countries, but medical costs also tend to rise faster than inflation, as new medical technology is introduced and medical salaries rise by more than general price levels.

 

Calorie chart – what puts the weight on, what takes it off

Calorie sources

Calorie content of the following foods

1 small portion of fish and chips – 685

1 spinach & avocado sandwich - 581

1 kebab & chips – 580

1 Cornish pasty - 498

1 tube of Smarties – 456

1 jacket potato with baked beans – 386

1 bowl of mushroom risotto - 345

1 almond croissant - 330

1 Snickers bar -296

1 bowl of vanilla ice cream - 298

1 KFC chicken drumstick – 296

1 Magnum Classic (ice cream) – 260

1 slice of cheesecake - 257

1 bacon sandwich – 242

1 cream cheese & smoked salmon bagel – 229

1 bowl of strawberries & cream - 228

1 packet of crisps – 225

1 jam doughnut - 220

1 slice of cake – 219

1 cup of hot chocolate – 215

1 chocolate cupcake - 204

1 pint of lager - 200

1 bowl of trifle – 193

1 pint of beer - 182

1 glass of Pimms & lemonade – 180

1 bowl of porridge + 1tablespoon of sugar - 156

1 cranberry & apple Frusli bar – 150

1 cappuccino coffee – 150

1 large glass of red wine - 150

1 slice of garlic bread – 145

1 slice of margarita pizza - 140

1 mango & passion fruit sorbet – 138

1 bowl of minestrone soup

1 vanilla ice cream cone - 120

250 ml Red Bull – 113

1 glass of Bucks Fizz – 110

2-finger Kit Kat - 106

1 chocolate biscuit - 81

1 sausage roll – 61

1 chocolate chip cookie - 55

250 ml Coca Cola – 53

1 pack of chewing gum - 50

1 small peach – 46

16 Tic Tacs - 32

250 ml Fanta ‘Zero’ – 8

 

Calorie burners

Calories burned by ONE HOUR of the following activities

Tae Bo – 953

Boxing with a punchbag - 600

Beach volleyball - 547

Inline skating – 535

Tennis - 472

Swimming (front crawl) – 454

Tai Chi – 450

Salsa dancing - 448

Jogging – 441

Playing 5-a-side football - 437

Shopping (High Street) – 390 * see below

Vigorous hill / country walking – 379

Ballroom dancing - 345

Wii Fit – 328

Raking leaves - 322

Operating a pedalo – 318

Ballet – 312

Downhill skiing – 302

Cycling, slow pace (10 km/hour) - 297

Mowing the grass (electric mower) - 292

Walking (flat) – 290

Gardening - 272

Shopping (Supermarket) – 272 * see below

Ping pong - 240

Golf, no trolley - 232

Trampoline jumping – 225

Having sex - 225

Kite flying – 206

Surfing (water, not Internet) - 205

Decorating the house - 188

Croquet – 184

Fishing - 176

Playing the violin – 170

Housework - 168

Playing the piano - 165

Washing up – 165

Preparing dinner - 154

Trivial Pursuit – 110

Ironing clothes - 90

Watching TV – 81

Kissing - 77

Sleeping – 44

 

(Figures adapted from The Times Health Club; Peta Bee et al)

 

One kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) of fat is equivalent to 7,700 calories.

Combating obesity – small personal steps

 

Major lifestyle alterations aimed at losing weight often fail, because they are too hard to keep up.  So here are a few small steps that can be taken by almost everyone to shed a few pounds over the year.

 

a) Buy some smaller dinner plates.  We judge the size of a meal not just by the amount of food but by the proportion of the plate it covers (that’s why some pub restaurants put the meal on a plate or basket stood within another plate, it makes the portion look better value).  A smaller plate will make you satisfied with a smaller meal.  However, eating lower calorie foods may make you want to eat more to compensate.  Research reported in ‘Eurofood’ (17 June 2009, p.10) indicated that people quickly learn which foods are low calorie and up the portion size to compensate.  A refinement of this has been adopted by the NHS in Britain; a ‘talking dinner plate’.  This plate can detect how quickly the weight of food is being removed from it, and if food is being gobbled too quickly, it will tell the diner to slow down.  Expect this plate to find a secondary usage at Greek weddings.

 

b) Postpone meals.  Eat dinner at 6.30pm and you may feel hungry again by around 9 or 10.  If you can put off eating dinner till 7.30 or 8, you may not want such a large snack later on.  At lunchtime, hungry around 12.45?  Tell yourself you’ll eat at 1.30, and maybe avoid the need for a mid-afternoon snack.

 

c) Dilute the calories.  Eat cheese with crackers, or ice cream with fruit.  Much easier than cutting out the treats altogether and the easier it is, the more you’ll stick to it.  This could be easier than eating low-fat versions, if you think they don’t taste as nice.

 

d) Eat fruit for breakfast.  Many of eat fruit with breakfast cereals, why not go the whole way and eat just fruit, or fruit with yoghurt (low sugar, preferably).  That way, you get 1 or 2 of your ‘5-a-day’ in as well.

 

e) Drink more.  A cup of tea or coffee, even with milk (semi-skimmed, hopefully) has far fewer calories than a mid-morning snack, and will kill your appetite for a bit.  Most of us don’t drink enough anyway.  Drinking a glass of water before a meal also helps fill your stomach, suppressing appetite.

 

f) Take the stairs at least partway.  If you work on the 10th floor, get out at the 8th.  If you work on the 2nd, don’t use the lift at all, stairs are probably just as quick.  And why use the lift on the way down at all?  Save the planet, lifts use a lot of electricity.

 

g) Likewise, park a little further away from the station, shops, workplace, and walk the last bit.  You may even save money; parking charges may apply close to shops but it may be free a few hundred yards away.  Park away from the school too, get the kids fit as well.  Save on congestion, frustration, and time negotiating the mini-traffic-jam twice a day near the school gates.

 

h) Go for a 45-minute evening walk.  Get to know your neighbourhood, see how it’s changing, maybe that’s more interesting than watching the soaps.  Get the kids walking as well?  A two mile walk 2 evenings out of 3 and you’re walking nearly 500 miles every year.

 

i) Walk up/down the escalator.  You’ll save a few seconds as well, 20 seconds every working day adds up to 11 hours in ten years – almost a whole extra free day.

 

j) Fidget whilst you watch TV.  Do something else whilst you’re watching, the programme isn’t really so riveting is it?  That will keep your body on the move.  If you haven’t time for exercise, do some light exercise like stepping up/down whilst TV watching – few of us complain we can’t make the time to watch our favourite programmes.

 

k) Get a partner.  Single people tend to eat less-healthy ready meals, and you can slim down much faster if you and your partner motivate each other. 

 

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