FRIDAY 18th APRIL 2019 

In an exclusive interview for the Daily Express Health Secretary, Matt Hancock,  urges unhealthy Brits to get off the sofa and start exercising as the shocking scale of inactivity is laid bare. " We are 20 per cent less active than the 1960s and if the crisis continues we will be 35 per cent less active by 2030. Idleness now costs the UK £7.4billion a year. If we do nothing the physical and mental impact on individuals and the financial cost to the NHS will become ever greater. We have a shared responsibility for our health. " .

NOF COMMENT:   The Forum would have more time for Mr Hancock's pronouncements if he ensured that local councils, the main providers of recreational spaces in any given area, had Treasury funds to make them attractive to exercise in.  Activity should be fun and enjoyable but a walk in the park is no fun if the park is rundown and uninviting.  Words alone will not motivate adults who cannot find 20 minutes a day in which to exercise: helping to create pleasant environments in which they could spend that time just might!  Only then should Mr Hancock talk about ' shared responsibility ' ". 


TUESDAY 23rd APRIL 2019 

Research from a Pennsylvania State University Water, Health, and Nutrition Lab at Penn, has reported that on a given day, some 20% American children don't drink any water.  Doubly concerning is the fact that instead they consume sugar-sweetened beverages [SSBs] and thereby gain some 200 calories a day. This, the researchers say, underscores the importance of children having free access to clean water. 

While an extra 200 calories may not seem like a lot, continue the researchers, it can add up quickly when kids are downing SSBs on a regular basis. They added " What you have to remember is that an extra 3,500 calories equals one pound of weight gain, so if you're not compensating for those extra calories, then over a month, you can potentially gain a pound. Over several months, that could add up."
NOF COMMENT: " Lamentably millions of  UK parents persist in giving their kids sweetened drink from infancy.  This makes it their default choice and they will scream if they don't get it.  Things have to change if we want to avoid the levels reported in the US.  Parents should be continually reminded that water is undeniably the healthiest freely available beverage - not only for children but for them, too.  Hopefully, within years we will see free water fountains on every high street to remind them.  The Victorians ensured that there was one in every park: now, 150 years later, the government has pledged that there will be the same in every public place"

Would achieving sugar reduction targets cut child obesity and healthcare costs?


BMJ publishes research stating that achieving sugar reduction targets could cut child obesity and healthcare costs. But these benefits could be lost if goals are not fully met, warn researchers.

Reducing the sugar content of certain foods by 2020, in line with UK government policy targets, could cut child obesity and related illness, and save the NHS in England £286 million over 10 years, suggests a study published by the BMJ today. 

But these benefits could be easily lost if the targets are not fully met, or if the programme leads to unintended changes in consumer or industry behaviour, warn the researchers.

Childhood obesity affects one in 10 children aged 4-5 years and one in 5 children aged 11-12 years, while the proportion of obese adults has risen from 15% in 1993 to 26% in 2016.

In 2016, the UK government set out plans to work with food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of certain high-sugar products, such as cereals and confectionery, by 20% by 2020.

The strategy consists of three sugar reduction approaches: reformulating products to contain less sugar, reducing portion size, and shifting sales from high-sugar products to low-sugar alternatives.

But the potential health impacts of these measures have not been studied.

So a team of researchers, led by Ben Amies-Cull at Oxford University, set out to estimate the impact of this strategy on child and adult obesity, related diseases, and healthcare costs.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2012-13 and 2013-14) were used to simulate a scenario where the strategy had been successfully implemented in England. Changes to child and adult weight were then estimated, and their impact on disease burden and healthcare costs were modelled.

Several assumptions were made. For example, baseline diet would remain unchanged (apart from the portion size or sugar content of target food items), and there would be no unintended changes in eating patterns or products (e.g. individuals substituting foods due to differences in taste or manufacturers changing non-target nutrients like salt).

The results show that fully achieving the government’s sugar reduction targets could reduce the number of obese 4-10 year olds by 5.5% of the obese population, 11-18 year olds by 2.2% and adults (19-80 year olds) by 5.5%.

Calorie intakes could be cut by 25 kcal/day for children and 19 kcal/day for adults.

In adults, this could lead to 155,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 3,500 cases of cardiovascular disease, 5,800 fewer cases of bowel (colorectal) cancer and a total NHS cost saving of £286m over 10 years.

However, they warn that the potential health benefits of the government's strategy could be lost if any of the three sugar reduction approaches fail to have the intended effect.

The limitations of this modelling study include the reliability of the survey data, which may have led to an under-estimate of the effect.

Nevertheless, the researchers say their findings remained largely unchanged after further analyses and conclude that the sugar reduction strategy “could be an effective means of reducing obesity-related illness and costs, although targets must be met.”

In a linked editorial, Dr Annalijn Conklin from the University of British Columbia says the research makes “an important contribution to the current knowledge of the population benefits of public health collaborations."

Future studies could assess whether the government’s programme is also an extension of ‘business as usual’, she writes, and thus whether the potential beneficial effects modelled by Amies-Cull and colleagues would be attributable to the programme or to a pre-programme trajectory.

Finally, although the programme may contribute, “a complete solution to the challenge of improving diets and reducing the burden of nutrition related chronic diseases requires a multi-sectoral package of policies which also includes the UK sugar tax, other fiscal tools, and hard regulation for improving public health,” she concludes. 
NOF COMMENT " The researchers are right in their conclusion but it's strange that they didn't factor in the success of the levy imposed on the sugary drinks industry a year ago. The levy's achievement in reducing sugar content in fizzy drinks by 11%  has opened up the idea that similar levies could do the same for food.  However, under the government's current 3 yr voluntary scheme for reduction it probably won't. Only some 2% of the 20% target has been achieved and 2020 is but eight months away!  Annalijn Conklin has the answer. UK will need a raft of fiscal measures and hard regulation if we are to see any significant reduction in childhood obesity "

May 17th 2017

Healthy obesity is not a harmless condition say scientists.  Having studied the health records of 3.5 million Britons they conclude that "healthy obesity" is a myth and having excess fat increases the risk of suffering heart disease by half even when blood pressure and cholesterol levels are normal.  People regarded as obese but healthy also have an increased risk of stroke and Type 2 diabetes.  


The researchers admit however that experts have long debated whether people can truly be "healthy obese" or "fat but fit", characterised by having normal markers of metabolic health despite having a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or more.  Whilst most people have an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes compared to those of moral weight, some seem to buck that trend and remain "healthy".


So what does the Forum think?  Can you be fat and fit?  We say, ask any group of rugby forwards who shift their bulk up and down a 100m field for 80 minutes and you'll get a "yes".   Ask scientists stuck in a lab and you might not.  Unfortunately, the Birmingham researchers appear not to have factored in recent genetic evidence that goes a long way to explaining why so many fat people appear not to suffer ill health.  These people have the ability to store large amounts of fat around their bodies yet remain fit.


And so the debate rages on!  




News and opinion

There are stories relating to obesity breaking around the world every day.  The stories below are those where journalists have sought NOF opinion or comment. 


Calorie Reduction Deal - but.........

A week later than intended the Department of Health [DH] has published the calorie reduction pledges that it has secured from the food industry as part of its Responsibility Deal plan.  The announcement was to have been made on March 14th to celebrate the 1st Anniversary of the idea of pledges being agreed and the script for the day called for a fanfare tp herald a number of " momentum building " exemplars to showcase the commitment of industry to health.  Unfortunately, key industry players such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King didn't read the script and the announcement has had to be made without them pledging anything.  The fact that the DH Press Release publicising the pledges was embargoed to midnight last night also gives the impression that someone thought that a Saturday would be a better day to bury  " not such good news ".

The Deal is, however, a beginning with a lot more work to be done - and DH has admitted as much.  In the end, the National Obesity Forum believes that regulation/legislation will be required to bring everybody into line: the majority of the 75% of brands who signed the pledge have only " promised " to do things: they have not specified how many calories they will take out and by when.  Coca Cola - acknowledged by NOF for its commitment to swap sugar for sweeteners in many of its soft drinks brands - is an exception.  It will take 30% of calories out by 2014 by its use of stevia.  Tesco should be also be complimented on its decision to make shopping for low-calorie products easier by adding a " Green Ping " label to the packaging - a " traffic lights " system if there ever was one!  One day the UK will see the end to the impossibly complicated GDA food labelling system.

High St chains who don't list calorie information


Major High St food outlets such as Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Garfunkels have shunned the government initiative to reduce obesity by not displaying calorie counts with their products.  The watchdog Which? has marked the 1st Anniversary of the launch of the Department of Health's [DH] " Responsibility Deal " with the food and drink industry by naming and shaming the companies that have declined to play ball.  " If food companies don't agree to help people eat more healthily, " Which? insists, " then we must see legislation to force them to do so ".  In reply, the DH has challenged the Which?  list by stating that it had secured pledges that more than 70% of fast food and takeaway meals had calorie values attached - thanks to McDonalds, Pret a Manger, Yo! Sushi and Subway.

The Forum, listed by the GUARDIAN as a group which believes that legislation or regulation is long overdue, is particularly dismayed that the 1st Anniversary has not witnessed the DH naming the food giants who it lobbied to sign a calorie reduction pledge.  Momentum-building exemplars were " promised " - but not delivered.  If the DH wants to see 5bn calories less eaten daily across the nation, this will not be achieved by bits of calorie information here and there - but it might be with serious calorie reduction of food stuffed with high levels of fat, salt and sugar.  



Bariatric surgery up 30-fold in decade

The Healthy Survey for England figures for 2010/11 show a 30-fold increase in 2010's bariatric surgery when compared to 2000.  The 2000's 8,087 operations, even though they include 1,444 for band adjustments, dwarfs the 261 that were "headline news " 12 years ago.  There was also a significant regional variation in the number of operations carried out and hospital admissions were also increasing - and increasingly varied across the country  - and three times more women than men were being given a primary diagnosis of obesity.  Tim Straughan,CEO of the NHS Information Centre which publishes the Survey, confirmed the growing impact of obesity on both people's health and NHS resources and suggested that health professionals working in the field might want to examine the regional discrepanicies.

Regional variations are very concerning to the National Obesity Forum [NOF] and, having examined them, it believes that they illustrate a postcode lottery which still exists in England.  It is deplorable.  Some Primary Care Trusts [PCTs] abide by the NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] in offering bariatric operations to obese patients  but others flout it by making it virtually impossible even for the morbidly obese to qualify for the surgery.  Hospital admissions vary similarly from region to region due to the disinclination of a significant number of surgeries referring needy patients.  The premise is that obesity is the patients' own fault and that the NHS shouldn't be expected to pay for treatment. 


966 calories - and counting?

Daily Mail

Now here's a fast-food meal that will make YOU a whopper, runs the Daily Mail's headline. The paper states that Burger King's latest - a 966 calorie Smoked Bacon and Cheddar double Angus burger - has been blasted by health critics.  Too right it has.

At a stroke, as they say in Westminster, the high street chain has run a coach and horses through the government's promise, made 24 hrs earlier, that people on the high street can be reassured that its Responsibility Deal with the food industry is working.  Further proof that responsibility appears not to be in the forefront of  the food industry's mind is Tesco's decision to sell £1 bars of Kitkat for 20p in order to lure customers back into their stores after Christmas! The chain also decided to put Easter Eggs on its shelves on Boxing Day [although it upset one customer who criticised her store for forgetting that chocolates for Valentine's Day should have been its priority!].  Finally, another Responsibility Deal backer, McDonalds has proudly added to the calorie count by declaring that 100 million additional customer visits darkened its doors in 2011. Big Macs are now available in 384 round-the-clock franchises that operate seven days a week. Enjoy.  

But take heart if you are reading this in the UK.  USA media are amazed that the National Obesity Forum is carping at a 966 calorie item. They suggest that we might be quite lost for words when presented with the 1,000+ calorie burgers that ring the tills across the Atlantic.  How long will it be, one wonders, before these gut-busting meals pop up here because our government has lost any stomach to take on Big Food? 

Byetta/Victoza get a shot in the arm


Although they have been available for some time as treatments for diabetes, drug Byetta and Victoza - drugs that mimic a gut hormone suppressing appetite - looks as if they might be a simple once-a-day injection that takes care of obesity, too.  National Obesity Forum chairman, Professor David Haslam, says tha they really have the potential for revolutionising treatment.  " Safety wise they are pretty good. I am using them on my patients and have had a lot of success. For some they have helped lose four stone and have brought blood sugar under control for the first time ". The have also helped patients blood pressure and reduced cholesterol and enzyme levels.

It is not all good news of course. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea but trails reported in the BMJ [Jan 14th] suggest that overall patient satisfaction with the treatment is relatively high.   Thankfully a drug for obesity may be no longer limited to Alli or the XLS Fat Binder pills available over-the-counter at pharmacies. 

Big mothers, fatter daughters


If you want to know what your girlfriend's going to look like in middle age, look at her mother.  Researchers at the Glasgow University confirm that bigger families are having bigger children and that daughters seem to inherit more from their mother.  The Glasgow study found that, of its female cohort, 17% were obese mothers but  20% of daughters were obese,  a far higher proportion than among fathers and sons or mothers and sons. 

The Scotsman's Sunday edition headlined its coverage " Children who shall inherit the girth " - a laudable title for a newspaper produced on the sabbath. Its take home message is, again, commendable.  The message?  All children with overweight/obese parents and at risk of becoming so themselves, should be monitored for unhealthy weight gain from birth.

Keep slim - get a better " bac "

If you follow French diet guru Pierre Dukan you just might support his call to award better marks to " baccalaureat " students " if they stay slim.  However, if you don't, you would be correct in thinking that his educational advice is as flawed as his fad Dukan Diet.  The Western Mail reports that the controversial exams suggestion should be avoided in Wales - and states that France's obesity umbrella gropup, CBNO, is none too enamoured of it either.  The Daily Telegraph, which also covers the story, quotes the groups's president, Anne-Sophiel Joly, as anticipating  playground taunts such as " Fatso!, you'll never get your bac! ".

MPs deride HMG obesity strategy


The House of Commons' cross-party Health Select Committee considers that the government's Responsibility Deal with food and drink firms to improve public health will not solve the huge problems of obesity and chronic drinking.  The Committee's report, examining Government reforms proposed for Public Health, echoes concerns expressed by the British Medical Association, campaigneers and celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.  The government must be ready to use legislation if industry fails voluntarily to reformulate its unhealthier products and " nudging " the population into heahier lifestyles also fails.  For it's part, the Department of Health refutes this approach and is adament that working with industry will provide the solution.  It insists that it is the Department and not industry that is setting the health agenda.

The National Obesity Forum [NOF] simply repeats it condemnation of the Department's strategy to tackle obesity and has broadened its demand for a comprehensive Inquiry into the epidemic [see below].  NOF understands that the National Audit Offioce and Commons' Public Affairs Committee's have also identified obesity for further reports: it is NOF's opinion that a joint Inquiry by all three bodies should be timetabled for early 2012. 

This demand takes into consideration that the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has already inquired into " nudging " and was told by a senior Conservative that it was " an open question whether nugging will have any effect on behaviour change whatsoever ".

Obesity - " Call to Action "

The National Obesity Forum, together with the Child Growth Foundation - the UK charity focussed on the prevention of chidhood obesity - has called for a second House of Commons Inquiry into Obesity following the publication of " Call to Action ", the Department of Health's strategy to accomplish a downward trend in obesity by 2020.  It is seven years since the Select Committee published its seminal report on obesity - and comparatively little has been achieved to stem the epidemic since.

The NOF calls the government's strategy " hopeless ".  Chairman Professor David Haslam told GP, the general practice weekly, that " Call to Action wouldn't make a single person thinner.  It is meaningless to primary care and I almost completely object to it ".  He also had some choice words for the " Dietary Recommendations for Energy " document released simultaneously with " Call to Action ".  Commenting on the new recommendations - which increased the calorie count -he castigated the increase for being " really unhelpful ". " It gives out entirely the wrong message." he said. " People are going to think that they can eat that little bit more. If anything, that will add to the obesity problem!"

" Call to Action " whose chief message is that the UK should strive for a collective daily reduction of 5 billion calories as a " new national ambition ", has received flak from all quarters except, of course, the food and drink industry. Jamie Oliver's view that the document was " worthless, regurgitated, patronsing rubbish " was the opinion most quoted.

Unhealthy food - name and shame

Sunday Telegraph

An Australian consumer group has launched the " Shame the Claim " campaign to encourage people to reveal those food products that present healthy claims but are far from good for you. The group states that parents in particular have signed up having had enough of the persistently deceptive marketing of unhealthy foods to children from food companies that should know better given the global rise in childhood obesity.


Towns where children are fatter than their parents

Daily Mail

Analysis of statistics comparing the most recent government adult obesity estimates and the 2008/9 National Child Measurement Programme figures has found that 20 of the 22 areas that children were fatter than adults are in London. The DAILY MAIL, medicine which carried out the analysis, viagra buy maps out the other English hotspots.

The figures belie Department of Health assurances that the obesity epidemic is  levelling off ".  It may well be in affluent area - such as towns in the countryside and afluent areas surrounding big cities - but in inner cities the picture is not the same.  For example, in Westminster, the " seat " of government, childhood obesity is 28.6%, 10% above the national English average.

Obese spend 50% more time in hospital

The Glasgow Herald is reporting research* showing that obese Scots spend an average of 26 days in hospital compared to 17 for someone within the healthy weight range.  The researchers from Edinburgh University trawled through medical records of some 16,000 men and women to examine the link between BMI and hospital stays.  In response to the finding, a Scottish Assembly spokeswoman stated that " the environment we live in means that weight gain becomes almost inevitable " [* Scottish Medical Journal 28th August].  

What an admission!  Perhaps this statement will stop governments blaming obesity on the failure of individuals to make healthy lifestyle choices and start to ensure that their politicians focus on strategies to change the obesogenic environment in which their populations live.  This week's THE LANCET spells out the measures that only governments can take.

26 million UK adults will be obese by 2030


The obesity crisis is being driven by a food industry bent on maximiising profits - but governments are failing to intervene to protect the health of their populations, leading scientists state.  In the UK, the fattest nation in Europe, the number of obese adults is now forecast to rise by 78% over the next two decades resulting in more than a million extra cases of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  A series of research papers published in The Lancet* ahead of the United Nations/World Health Organisation [UN/WHO] High-Level Meeting on non-communicable diseases [New York  Sept 19th/20th], lists 20 proven interventions for curbing obesity which show that eight would save costs as well as improving health.  The researchers state that no country in the world is successfully tackling the threat as leaders fear the wrath of electors if they slap extra taxes on healthy foods. [*

The INDEPENDENT is unique in both its coverage of The Lancet series but also for a Leader stating the case for a " fat tax ".  This was echoed in interviews with  Forum spokespeople by the BBC's News Channel, Radio 5 Live and 20 of the BBC's local radio stations that highlighted some of the 20 measures that The Lancet believes the UN/WHO should implement as soon as possible.  The series of the Lancet papers should be required reading for anyone interested in tackling to-day's pandemic and preventing it taking further hold in the future. 

THE LANCET is not alone in looking forward to the UN/WHO meeting.  The BMJ chooses to ask whether or not vested interest will bring the meeting to its knees.  In a paper " Will industry unfluence derail UN summit? ", it raises serious concerns about the " powerful sway " of tobacco, alcohol, food and drug industries.  This concern is then supported by a Commentary declaring that the meeting will be a " battleground, pitting public interests against powerful private ones ".  The two days may witness the emergence of a global social movement for change shaping the future of our health for years to come - or see it scuppered. [BMJ August 24th 2011]

The " fat and jolly " hypothesis for adolescent girls

French clinicians, check  aiming to describe the association between BMI [Body Mass Index] and depression in teenage children, ailment  report that overweight adolescent girls are more likely to be depressed than obese adolescent girls, giving support for
the  " fat and jolly " hypothesis not only among older women but also among adolescent girls [source: BMC Public Health]  

Smoking " pack years " concept for obesity?

A team of researchers from Australia, diagnosis Denmark and Indonesia have come up with the suggestion that obesity should be measured in "obese years" or "BMI years", here analogous to the " pack years " concept used for smoking.  Up to now obesity has been measured internationally only by the severity of the problem and not its duration.  To do the latter would be much more meaningful because examining the association between obesity and the risk of mortality, nurse by considering only its severity and ignoring its duration, may have underestimated the adverse effects of the current epidemic [source: International Journal of Epidemiology]  

Obesity-drug use rises massively 2010-2011


The use of weight-loss drugs has risen by 65% and sales of other slimming products by 20% in this last year according to a survey by the The Co-operative Pharmacy. Chemists record that they have concerns that the rise could be the result of discrimination. 20% of people surveyed stated they had been victimised over their weight with women most likely to to say that they had been ridiculed about their bodies.  Depression and stress were also cited as the greatest influence on weight gain.  The survey urged people to consult their GP or pharmacist about ways of shedding weight.

Discriminating against the obese is deplorable with the psychological aspects of obesity often overlooked.  Unfortunately GPs can still be very hesitant in talking about weight issues and be dismissive. They will be prescribing lifestyle advice before prescribing drugs - but increasingly it appears that their patients demand the latter or even bypass their GP to buy their pills over the counter.  

Should parents lose custody of super obese kids?


To-day’s publication of the journal of the American Medical Association states that putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.  Dr David Ludwig, sickness a US top obesity expert, rx states that the point is not to blame the parents but rather to act in the children’s best interests and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can’t provide [JAMA July 13th 2011]

Dr Matt Capehorn, sick NOF Clinical Director, asked a BMA conference in 2007 to agree that, in a worst case scenario, social services should be called in if a child’s health was at risk from its weight.  The BMA declined but over the years, after a number of UK children have been so referred, many doctors have shifted their opinion.  In its August 21st edition last year the BMJ [British Medical Journal] outlined when childhood obesity should become a child protection issue.  It proposed a framework for practice.

NOF publishes new position statement on Very Low Energy Diets (VLED)

The National Obesity Forum is recommending new standards for the management of obese people seeking to lose weight using Very Low Energy Diets (also referred to as Very Low Calorie Diets). Download the position statement here. [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 209.95 KB]

Tam Fry on Radio 4 Today program

Today, drugs Thursday 8th July 2010, erectile Tam Fry was on the BBC Radio 4 Today program. Click Here to visit the BBC page and hear the item.

Visit the EOF

The European Obesity Forum website can be visited at

NOF Diploma

Following the outstanding success of our first diploma day in August, check we are running four more training days in 2010. These will take place all around the country.

For more information visit our NOF Diploma page

‘Man-Flu’ – is the joke over? Take a Man MOT

Men’s health under threat as vital warning signs are ignored.
Have you ever been accused of having ‘Man-Flu’? New research reveals that the term, buy ‘Man-Flu’ adopted by many to ridicule men when they are sick, dosage could be having a negative impact. In some cases, men feel that the term, ‘man-flu’ is denying them the right to be ill (43%) and preventing them from seeking advice for a legitimate illness (52%)1.

Read more: ‘Man-Flu’ – is the joke over? Take a Man MOT

Obesity News Portal

Welcome to our news centre. Healthcare professionals can find a wealth of obesity related information by clicking on the link to the Obesity Portal below. You can also find all the latest news from the BBC and our opinions on some of the burning topics surrounding the growing problem of obesity.

You Big Kid

Kids are growing so tall that Tesco has launched school uniforms in ADULT sizes.  Parents are telling the chain store that it’s becoming a nightmare to kit out for school.

With height comes width with, viagra dosage reportedly, waist sizes for an average yr old having increased by 7cm compared to 1981!

State of the Nation's Waistline report 2015

State of the Nation's Waistline 2015
Turning obesity around: A national New Year resolution 

The National Obesity Forum has published the State of the Nation's Waistline report highlighting the scale of obesity in the UK and putting forward recommendations to coincide with the start of National Obesity Awareness Week 2015.

To view a PDF of the report, please click the following link:



NOF Livid at no QOF for Childhood Obesity

In February 2009 NOF welcomed media reports that the Department of Health [DH] was considering assessing 2yr-old's growth as part of its QOF strategy to stem childhood obesity. Now that the DH's latest plans to tackle obesity have been published it is livid that children appear, once again, to have been forgotten.

In Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: One Year On [April 6th 2009] the DH announced that a Life Check for 40-74yr olds would demand that GPs offered weight-loss counselling to overweight/obese patients. This is not a new QOF, however, simply a bolt-on to the current vascular screening programme. Dr David Haslam, NOF's Chairman and Clinical Director said I'm a screenaholic but if the Government is not going to pay us any more GPs are not going to be able to help?

Measures to identify children at risk of obesity or treating them continue not to get the QOF demanded by the NOF. In a reply to a NOF question put to him at a Fabian Society meeting in July 2008, Health Minister, Alan Johnson, confirmed that QOFs were crucial to the Governments fight against obesity but he obviously did not have children on his radar. NOF is sure that GPs in general will do nothing to identify children at risk of obesity or treat those that are unless they get QOF payments for so doing.

In February, too, NOF stated that it would like to see further body mass index [BMI] assessment in schools. The Reception Year and Yr 6 measures are good public health “ snapshots “ of the nation's childhood epidemic but fail completely to identify any escalation of unhealthy weight in school. That could now change in Scotland with the SNP tabling its intention to initiate annual checks. NOF states that this is long overdue: in 2004 the House of Commons recommended Annual checks to achieve the Chief Medical Officer's requirement that all primary care staff identify the early signs of obesity in children and offer interventions at an early stage. Sir Liam Donaldson made this deman in 2003! Now, perhaps, Scotland is enacting the provisions made in the Health & Social Care Act 2008 which foresees annual checks throughout the UK from the age of 2.


Theresa May has stipulated that every child is to be weighed by default in her Plan for Action to tackle childhood obesity. That is very welcome.  But, since the Plan’s announcement in August, there has been total silence on what “ default “ actually means.  Neither Nr 10 nor the Department of Health or any of the Medical Royal Colleges * who might have been expected to be consulted on the issue appear to have any idea of the detail.  That is plainly wrong.  The National Obesity Forum believes that, after 4 months, it is high time that the small print was published to prove how much serious thinking on the Plan has been done.  

Just explaining what “ default “ actually means would be helpful.  If it means that every child is weighed every time it shows up for a medical check, that would be rubbish: on average a child comes into contact with a health professional some 50 times by the time it leaves school.  If however it was weighed at set times in order to identify a concerning weight trend, the programme would be brilliant.  After all, animals are weighed annually in zoos to check on their health and our cars get an MOT yearly once over, so why not our children?  Without such a programme another stated objective in the Plan - the identification of weight issues early on – will not be achievable.

Weighing children is nothing new.  Indeed, programmes were initiated over a hundred years ago but they were axed before childhood obesity ever became a serious problem.  Currently a child is weighed a few times in its first year of life but hardly at all thereafter.  The Forum holds the view that this omission, over many years, to a huge number of children with critical weight gain not being identified and referred for treatment.  A quarter of our 4-5 yr old population didn’t get overweight or obese overnight.  Their plight is, in the words of the Secretary of State, is a “ great scandal “ – and he could have added that it is one that he should have substantially attenuated..

It is not as if he and former Health Secretaries were left in any doubt as to what to do.  In his 2002 Annual Report the Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, called on all primary care professionals – GPs, health visitors, school nurses and the rest - to identify the early stages of childhood obesity and offer early interventions.  By 2004 the House of Commons’ Health Select Committee [HSC] recommended to the government that every child in primary school to be assessed for BMI annually. Again in 2010 Donaldson recommended that schoolchildren have annual fitness tests and most recently Dr Sarah Wollaston, the current HSC chair, repeated the call by the predecessors. Indeed to-day’s HSC recommends that the public health survey taken at 4-5yrs be brought forward to one at aged 2yrs.  In the opinion of the National Obesity Forum, a default weighing programme should be implemented as soon as possible at all these ages. Had they been when recommended, there is no doubt that  tens of thousands of excessively overweight children would have been spotted and could have been helped not to drift into obesity.

The Plan for Action already has already provided the opportunity.  In a separate provision it has directed schools from the 2017/18 academic year to begin to deliver 30 minutes of physical activity and what better than to assess fitness levels at the same time, too?  Although the proper interpretation of BMI data might rightfully be the preserve of health professionals, the actual job of assessment could be carried out by any responsible adult once they have been trained to do it.   The equipment required is inexpensive and the methodology uninvasive.  Carried out properly the operation could induce a significant improvement in the country’s obesity figures,

Finally, and from 2017 too, physically activity will be a key part of the new healthy schools rating scheme.  They will have the opportunity to demonstrate what they are doing to help their pupils become or stay healthy and fit.  They will be encouraged to work with  the school nurses, health centres, healthy weight teams in local authorities across the country.  Ofsted inspections will keep them up to the mark.  It’s a win-win situation – and about time, too.

*Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Physicians’




Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
SW1A 2NS                                                                             11 January 2017

Dear Mr Hunt

We are writing this open letter to encourage you to elaborate on measures, set out in the Childhood Obesity Plan, for a default child weighing programme, or to launch a consultation with experts to determine how such an initiative could be best implemented.

Our belief is that such a programme could have a significant impact on levels of childhood obesity that remain dangerously high. It would allow early identification and intervention to prevent overweight and obesity in children that could affect their long-term health outcomes. And over time such a programme could ultimately help in counteracting obesity levels across the population as a whole, in turn reducing the cost of obesity to the NHS.

The inclusion of weighing children within the Childhood Obesity Plan was extremely welcome. While weighing children at every medical appointment would be excessive, an annual check would be in line with the recommendations of experts for annual child health checks, including those of former Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson and Chair of the Health Select Committee Dr Sarah Wollaston.

With one in five children considered overweight or obese by the time they begin primary school, according to the National Child Measurement Programme, we would urge you to implement this part of the Childhood Obesity Plan with all haste. We believe this could be achieved at minimal cost but with great reward. 

Yours sincerely

Professor David Haslam

Chairman, National Obesity Forum

Tam Fry

Spokesman, National Obesity Forum

Third of Britons believe increased school PE and clearer food labelling will be most effective at tackling obesity crisis

0001hrs, 9 January 2016. A third (34 percent) of Britons believe increasing the mandatory amount of time children spend on physical education in schools would be one of the most effective ways of helping to reduce levels of obesity, with a similar number (33 percent) favouring clearer labelling of food and drink products as the most effective way to tackle the UK obesity epidemic, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned for the annual JanUary healthy living campaign.

Schools in England are required to include PE within their curriculums, but are allowed to set the amount of time they spend on physical activity after a government target of two hours a week was scrapped in 2012.

The poll also found that, when asked to choose between a range of potential health measures, nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) thought a ban on advertising ‘junk’ foods before a watershed of 9pm would work best, with a similar percentage (24 percent) believing loyalty-style promotions by supermarkets would encourage the purchase of healthy products and be the most effective way of reducing obesity levels.

One in five Britons (21 percent) chose a ban on ‘Buy one get one free’ (Bogof) promotions, with the same percentage of respondents also believing reduced portion sizes and taxes on products high in salt, sugar and fat would be most effective in reducing obesity. 

Nineteen percent of Britons called for more information from government on healthy food and drink. The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of the annual JanUary campaign (formerly National Obesity Awareness Week), led by the National Obesity Forum and Heart Research UK, and calling on Britons to commit to healthy and sustainable New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

Barbara Dinsdale, Head of Lifestyle at Heart Research UK, said:

“The scale of the obesity problem in the UK is well known, and puts a strain on public services, particularly the NHS.

“Ultimately, good habits and good choices are needed to address what is an epidemic. That needs to start in school, as well as in the home, and it’s essential children are encouraged to be physically active. But Britons also want to see clear information and to be incentivised to make healthy choices, whether through in-store promotions, smaller portions or better product labelling. There is an opportunity for the food and drink industry to build on the work it’s doing and to help customers make these healthy choices.”

Tam Fry, Spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said:

“There is no quick fix to a problem that’s grown over more than 20 years. We need to encourage children to be more physically active and less wedded to computers, mobiles and television. And we need to ensure children and adults are encouraged to pick healthy foods, and discouraged from those high in sugar, salt and fats.”

Polling information

Q. Which of the following, if any, do you think would be the most effective in helping to improve people’s health and reduce levels of obesity? Please select your top three.



Increasing the mandatory amount of time pupils should spend in PE (physical education) lessons in schools


Clearer food labelling of food and drink products


Loyalty style promotions from supermarkets to reward buying healthier products


Restrictions on advertising ‘junk’ foods before 9pm


Food and drink companies reducing portion sizes


Banning “buy one get one free” promotions in supermarkets on unhealthy products


Extending the principle of the “Soft Drinks Industry Levy” and putting extra taxes on food products high in sugar, salt or fat to increase their cost


More information from government on healthy food and drink


None of these


Don’t know



Base: GB adults (n=2,031)

ComRes interviewed 2,031 GB adults online between 21 and 22 December 2016. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

For further information about the JanUary campaign, or comment from Heart Research UK, please contact Chris Rogers on 020 7793 2536 / 07720 054189.

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum is also available for interview and contactable on 07850 138822.

Stronger action needed on fizzy drinks, says FGDP(UK)

The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) says that a newly-published study underlines the need for stronger action to reduce the consumption of sugar from fizzy drinks.

The analysis of the sugar and calories in sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks, conducted by the Action on Sugar campaign group and published in the BMJ Open, reveals that the average 330ml can contains more sugar than an adult's recommended daily maximum intake of 30g (equivalent to 7.5 teaspoons), with some containing over 52g (12 teaspoons).

FGDP(UK) is supporting the authors' calls for further steps to be taken to cut the amount of sugar consumed from fizzy drinks in order to reduce the incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries.

The Faculty's Dean, Dr Mick Horton, said:

“The recent news that some manufacturers and supermarkets are reformulating their soft drinks ranges is welcome, and shows that the Sugar Tax is working even before its implementation. However the fact that the average fizzy drink contains more sugar than an adult should consume in an entire day, and three-quarters of them contain more than a child's recommended maximum, proves they simply cannot form part of a healthy and balanced diet, and stronger action is needed.

“Further restrictions on advertising of high sugar drinks, and a ban on price promotions, would help stop tens of thousands of children having to be hospitalised to have their teeth extracted, and if the government makes reformulation to under 5g of sugar per 100ml mandatory, the savings to the NHS will far outstrip the tax foregone, and more importantly the nation’s health will be improved.”


Notes to editors

1.            The Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK) is based at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. It provides services to help those in general dental practice raise standards of patient care. It does this through standards setting, providing education courses and assessments, CPD, policy development, research and publications. Membership of FGDP(UK) is open to dentists and other registered dental professionals.

2.            The study, Cross-sectional survey of the amount of free sugars and calories in carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages on sale in the UK, is available at

3.            Action on Sugar’s public policy recommendations are at

4.            For FGDP(UK) enquiries, please contact Jamie Woodward, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, on 020 7869 6759 or email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

5.            Receive the latest news and updates from FGDP(UK) by following us @FGDP_UK on Twitter or on FacebookGoogle+Instagram and Linkedin.

6.            Higher resolution images are available on request from  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



'3 in 5 of England’s most deprived boys will be overweight or obese by 2020'

Stark new figures from the Obesity Health Alliance, released on World Obesity Day, show a looming significant weight gap between the poorest and wealthiest primary-school aged boys living in England. Three in five (60%) of the most deprived boys aged 5-11 are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to about one in six (16%) of boys in the most affluent group [1]. 

The most deprived girls didn’t however show the same trend, and are projected to have similar obese and overweight prevalence rates to their more affluent counterparts with an average of 1 in 5 girls predicted to be obese or overweight by 2020.

Eating or drinking too much sugar is a key reason for consuming extra calories and therefore a cause of obesity. Sugar currently makes up 13% of children’s daily calorie intake, while the official recommendation is no more than 5% [2]. This is why the Obesity Health Alliance fully supports the Government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which is an important step to help make our children healthier. The alliance is also calling on food manufacturers to comply with the Government’s programme to reduce the sugar in food eaten often by children and wants to see loopholes closed to protect children from exposure to junk food marketing online and on TV.

Robin Ireland, Chief Executive at Health Equalities Group and member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These stats also illustrate an obvious gender gap with boys, especially those from the most deprived areas, much more likely to be obese. Whilst it is difficult to comment on exactly why this happens, there could be a number of reasons including girls usually being more conscious about their physical appearance, and boys being more brand loyal and therefore susceptible to the billions of pounds spent on marketing to children through brand characters and sports stars. Either way, this area needs a lot more attention.”

“From a young age, children are developing a taste for high sugar, salt and fatty foods that is difficult to break once established and as a nation, we all have a responsibility to help shape children’s diets. 

“Sugary drink consumption levels tend to be highest among the most disadvantaged children who are hit hardest by obesity and tooth decay. The health gains from the soft drinks industry levy will be biggest for our most deprived children.”

Obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, liver and cardiovascular disease, and associated mental health problems [3] which all have a devastating impact on millions of lives.

Chris Askew, Chief Executive at diabetes UK, said: “Obesity is a major risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes, and Type 2 accounts for 9 out of 10 diabetes cases. Treating diabetes and its complications already costs the health service £10 billion a year and the rising cost is placing huge pressure on the NHS.

“Not taking action now will result in the NHS forking out monumental amounts of money for largely preventable conditions. This is why it’s so important to implement the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, manufacture healthier food, and close the loopholes of junk food marketing to children today, so our future health, workforce, and NHS can stand a chance tomorrow.” 

Weight predictions for 5-11 year old boys in least and most deprived groups in England



Actual data

Modelled data









Least deprived (IMD Q1)



























Healthy Weight














Most deprived (IMD Q5)



























Healthy Weight









Further information:

This modelling was done by UK Health Forum. For more details, please contact Laura Webber, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[1] The analysis used existing figures of the number of children aged 5-11 who are obese, overweight and a healthy weight, categorised by level of deprivation, and modelled future trends. The data used were on childhood obesity prevalence from 2008 to 2014 taken from the Health Survey for England.  These data were categorised by the factor, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). IMD has five levels, with level 1 being least deprived and level 5 being most deprived. 

Projections were made on these data using the calibration measure of uk90 data. The projections were made for the ages of 5-11, with a start year of 2008 and stop year of 2020. 

Data Manipulation

•For IMDQ2, year 2009 data was removed

•The remaining quintiles had their data unaltered

[2] National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 5-6 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2012/13 – 2013/14) 

[3] Simmonds, M., et al. (2016). ‘Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis’. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity’. 17(2): 95-107.

[4] IMD is the Index of Multiple Deprivation set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

[5] After working out the mean, overall, 36% of the most deprived children are predicted to be overweight or obese compared to just 19% of the most affluent.

Notes to editors:

For further media information please contact Christine Tama, Senior Media Officer at Diabetes UK on 020 3757 7873 or Caroline Cerny, Policy Manager on 020 7832 6928.  

1.       The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is a coalition of over 30 leading health charities, campaign groups and Royal Medical Colleges who have joined together to fight obesity.

2.       The membership of the OHA currently comprises: Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Action on Sugar, Association for the Study of Obesity, British Liver Trust, British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine , British Heart Foundation, British Medical Association, British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society, British Society of Gastroenterology, Cancer Research UK, Children's Food Campaign, Children’s Food Trust, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Health Equalities Group, Institute of Health Visiting, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, National Obesity Forum, Men's Health Forum, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of General Practitioners , Royal College of Nursing , Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health , Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal Society of Public Health, Society for Endocrinology , UK Health Forum, World Cancer Research Fund UK.

3.       The statement has been issued on the behalf of the Obesity Health Alliance steering group, which comprises of: British Heart Foundation, British Medical Association, Cancer Research UK, Children’s Food Campaign, Diabetes UK, Faculty of Public Health, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and UK Health Forum.



“Eat fat, cut the carbs and avoid snacking to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

This document, issued jointly with the Public Health Collaboration, has achieved Worldwide coverage over the past week. It was co-authored by Aseem Malhotra, NHS consultant cardiologist and NOF adviser, David Haslam, GP Watton-at-Stone, Sam Feltham, director of the Public Health Collaboration, David Unwin, GP  Southport, and Shamil Chandaria, Patron, NOF, Jason Fung, , Nephrologist and Chief of the Department of Medicine, The Scarborough Hospital, Toronto, Canada, James DiNicolantonio, Cardiovascular Research Scientist Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, Trudi Deakin, Dietitian and best selling author, Caryn Zinn Dietitian, Auckland, New Zealand, and Peter Brukner, OAM, MBBS, FACSP, FACSM, FASMF, FFSEM; specialist sports and exercise physician . No funding was sought or received for this report. The document was supported and peer reviewed by an International expert panel[i][i].

Historical context

The approach described in the document is nothing new, and the wording is deliberately phrased in respect to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine who recommended ‘rich foods’ to stay thin, including fatty meats, especially grassfed animals. The arguments surrounding fats and carbohydrate have been vigorous ever since. The treatment of diabetes in particular has been controversial over many centuries. In the 17th century physicians such as Thomas Willis considered diabetes to be a disorder of the kidneys which leaked sugar; treatment was to replace the lost sugar with a high sugar diet. In the late 18th century John Rollo defined the underlying cause of diabetes as being the gastro-intestinal tract by varying macronutrients in the diet, and boiling down 24 hour urine specimens to measure the sugar therein; the lower the starch in the diet, the less sugar he found in the urine. Many great physicians espoused the low carb, higher fat approach over the next 150 years, culminating in classic texts such as Raymond Greene’s essential The Practice of Endocrinology which states that the diet for obesity is to avoid bread, flour, cereals, potatoes, sugar and sweets in favour of meat, fish and birds; green vegetables, eggs, cheese and certain fruit – a very similar method to that described in the report. There is a growing portfolio of recent evidence supporting the benefits of ad libitum low carbohydrate approaches.

Reactions to the report.

Predictably our document has polarised opinion, hence the need for this statement.


Professor Phillip James said: ”Unfortunately the human body developed in evolutionary terms the most duplicated rigorous and complex systems for keeping us from starvation so a glib series of one liners does not sort the obesity problem out - hence our failure so far.” and that the report “takes as read things like dietary cohort studies which are almost all fundamentally flawed with their measurement  errors - particularly on fat% - and the failure to understand the individual , usually genetic, differences in responsiveness that we have seen in almost every biological response we have looked at.”

Professor Mike Lean, rather succinctly said: “Frankly, you have blown it”

Pinki Sahota, Chair of ASO, on behalf of ASO said “The ASO, established [in](sic) 1967 is dedicated to the understanding, prevention and treatment of obesity. ASO is a scientific society and we support and promote an evidence based approach through the pursuit of excellence in research, education and practice. As such we do not endorse the content of the report as it contradicts current evidence based advice on healthy eating with a potential detrimental impact on public health”


Various other experts, however, have been generous in their support.

Professor Iain Broom wrote: “At long last there is some sense coming into dietary advice that may eventually lead to improved health, in particular tackling the double whammy of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.  I totally agree with the document produced jointly by the NOF and the Public Health Collaboration” although correctly pointing out that we should have said ‘zero added sugar’, rather than ‘zero sugar’ as healthy fruit contain sugars.

Professor Robert Lustig, Professor of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology and Member, Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco and President, Institute of Responsible Nutrition advised that: “this new National Obesity Forum and Public Health Collaboration guideline focuses on real food over processed food, and makes the case that the entire healthcare complex needs to relearn nutrition in order to be effective advocates for their patients. I couldn’t agree more.”

Professor Ian Banks, President of the European Men’s Health forum, praised the ‘superb report’.


The rest of the Board of the NOF wish to make it completely and transparently clear that they were not given the opportunity to see the document, or give any input into it and some members opinions differ from those specifically presented in the document. The Board has stated, regarding the document, "the NOF is a forum that welcomes debate and discussion, even when opinions differ or challenge widely held beliefs. This paper has some interesting arguments for future discussion, some of which are the opinions of the authors, and not all of the Board Members. Though individuals’ opinions differ within the Forum, as a group however, the NOF supports the principle of discussion and therefore the right of those named authors to produce an opinion paper based on their own views without prejudice or penalty. At the same time, the Forum recognises that NOF agents and associates, other Board Members and individual NOF members may have differing views from some points raised in this document and retain the right to those views also without prejudice or penalty within the freedom of a forum. For further information regarding this document, enquiries should be directed to the authors." 

[i][i] Dr Zoe Harcombe, Obesity researcher. Professor Robert Lustig, Professor of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology and Member, Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco Dr Jason Fung, Nephrologist and Chief of the Department of Medicine, The Scarborough Hospital, Toronto, Canada. Dr James Di-Nicolantonio,  Cardiovascular research scientist, Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, USA Dr Eric Westman,  President of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians Dr Michael and Dr Mary Eades, California, USA. Professor Timothy Noakes, Emeritus Professor of Sports Medicine and Exercise Science, University of Cape Town Mrs Karen Thomson, Best-selling author and health activist. Dr Caryn Zinn, Dietician and Senior Lecturer, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand Professor Grant Schofield, Professor of Public Health, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand Professor Peter Brukner, Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician, Australian Cricket Team Doctor, Professor of Sports Medicine, La Trobe University Dr Ross Walker, Cardiologist, Lindfield Cardiology, Sydney Australia Damon Gameau, Film maker and health activist, Melbourne, Australia Christine Cronau, Nutritionist and best-selling author, Brisbane, Australia Caitlin Dalton, Nutritionist, Brisbane, Australia.

Confronting obesity in Europe: Taking action to change the default setting

Europe lacks integrated approach to tackle obesity crisis, new EIU report finds

  • In most European countries around half of the population is now overweight or obese, and the percentage is set to rise further over the next decade. In the UK this could reach 71% by 2025
  • Associated healthcare costs are rising, with direct costs ranging from 1.5-4.6% of health expenditure in France to around 7% of healthcare spending in Spain
  • Lifestyle and behavioural education programmes are crucial—but obesity is also a medical condition that is hard to treat and is directly linked to other serious conditions
  • No European country has a comprehensive strategy for dealing with obesity. Experts say that only an integrated, multi-sectoral strategy is likely to cap the growth of obesity rates

Europe is facing an obesity crisis of epidemic proportions that threatens to place a tremendous burden on its healthcare systems. But policymakers appear divided over how to deal with the issue, according to Confronting obesity in Europe: Taking action to change the default setting, a new white paper published today (November 25th) by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Ethicon.

Projections from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that the proportion of those who are overweight or obese is expected to rise further in most of western Europe over the next decade, reaching 71% in the UK, 76% in Iceland and 82% in Ireland, although the projections remain cautious owing to limitations in available data and reporting. Obesity puts strains on healthcare systems: the European Organisation for the Study of Obesity (EASO) found direct costs ranging from 1.5-4.6% of health expenditure in France to around 7% of healthcare spending in Spain.

Several of those interviewed for the report agree that European obesity policy on the national level has suffered from being fragmented among a number of government agencies, creating the need for better integration. "An effective strategy has to integrate a number of different sectors and different tools", said Roberto Bertollini, chief scientist and WHO representative to the EU.

Most policies looking to address obesity focus on lifestyle changes, including an emphasis on healthy diets and exercise. The majority of pan-European and even national obesity campaigns have been focused on healthy eating in schools and homes, better food labelling and incentives associated with healthy eating and exhortations for work-outs or “active kids” campaigns. 

While lifestyle and behavioural education programmes have a crucial role to play in preventing obesity in healthy people, experts (including the American Medical Association) define obesity as a disease that is hard to treat. In order to rise to the challenge of obesity, policymakers need to acknowledge that those who are already obese are suffering from a medical condition for which lifestyle-based programmes are insufficient.

Zoe Griffith, head of programme and public health at Weight Watchers, highlighted the limitations of programmes aimed at lifestyle and behavioural change: "Education in schools, availability of healthy eating and restriction on marketing to children will go some way towards resetting our society, but what they are completely ignoring is the majority of the population who are overweight and obese and need treatment. It’s a very complex political and policymaking environment."

Martin Koehring, the editor of the report, summarised the report findings as follows: “Our report has highlighted that creating an environment that prevents obesity and discourages an unhealthy lifestyle is crucial. National approaches to obesity need to take into account two very different target populations. On the one side are healthy people, for whom prevention programmes are largely designed. On the other side are those who are already severely overweight and obese, for whom the traditional emphasis on behavioural change is generally ineffective. Only an integrated, multi-sectoral strategy is likely to cap the growth of obesity rates.”

Read Confronting obesity in Europe: Taking action to change the default setting here

MPs and schoolchildren face off over healthy eating and hydration

MPs and schoolchildren face off over healthy eating and hydration

Members of Parliament and their teams of local schoolchildren have put their nutrition knowledge to the test in a quiz within the House of Commons to promote healthy eating and hydration amongst young people.

Rob Flello (Chair of the All-Party Group for Adult and Child Obesity) and Steve Pound, MP for Ealing North teamed up with pupils from Featherstone Primary, Berrymede Junior School and Horsenden Primary for the quiz, which was chaired by London deputy mayor Lady Victoria Borwick.

The quiz was organised by the Eat Like A Champ programme, a Change4Life partner scheme designed to promote healthy diet and lifestyles amongst primary school pupils aged nine and 10 years. Pupils and MPs participated in six rounds of questions testing their knowledge of healthy eating, hydration and nutrition. The quiz was organised to coincide with the launch of National Obesity Awareness Week, which is led by the National Obesity Forum.

The Eat Like A Champ programme is run by Danone and was developed in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation.

The National Child Measurement Programme reported in December 2014 that 33.5 per cent of Year 6 children (aged 10-11) were considered either overweight or obese.

Professor David Haslam, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said:

“The findings of the National Child Measurement Programme were shocking but sadly not unexpected. There are too many young people who are not being exposed to the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity, particularly in deprived areas. Instead, they are largely sedentary and much of their diet consists of poor quality foods that are high in calories, sugars and trans-fats. This has consequences for children’s long-term health outcomes.

“We need to break this pattern and initiatives like Eat Like A Champ are vital in educating our young people about good nutrition and hydration habits. I’m very grateful to them for organising this event, and to all of the participating MPs and Lady Borwick. They’re not just being good sports – they’re helping to get across a really important message.”

Rob Flello MP, Chair of the All-Party Group for Adult and Child Obesity, said:

“Schemes like Eat Like A Champ and other Change4Life partner programmes are very important in helping young people have the best start in life. I hope the pupils taking part in today’s quiz enjoy being in Parliament and it’s important we use this opportunity to underline how crucial healthy eating is for young people.”

Adam Grant, Managing Director of Danone Ltd, said:

“Danone’s mission is to bring health through food and drink to as many people as possible. Therefore, I am delighted for Eat Like A Champ to support such an important initiative as NOAW. I am extremely proud of the Eat Like A Champ students who have demonstrated great enthusiasm and nutrition knowledge today. These children are true healthy eating champs.”

The National Obesity Forum is encouraging members of the public to commit to New Year’s Resolutions during National Obesity Awareness Week that will improve their health.
 Podcast is a new national platform for the voices of the under 20s across the UK.  We broadcast a daily podcast on our site and cover a huge range of subjects.This week, our army of student and teenage journalists have been asking young people about their attitudes to school dinners, fast food, and the right to be fat.It makes interesting listening, and we welcome feedback and debate via twitter podiumme and facebook

Listen to our 3 minute podcast of UK teens discussing food issues