A story doing the rounds across the UK media today is the claim that the scary projections made about obesity in a government report in 2007 were actually an underestimate. If only these journalists had bothered to look at actual statistics rather than dubious models, they would quickly realise that this claim is completely unfounded.
The Foresight report in 2007 claimed: ‘By 2050, Foresight modelling indicates that 60 per cent of adult men, 50 per cent of adult women and about 25 per cent of all children under 16 could be obese. Obesity increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases, particularly type-2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease and also cancer and arthritis. The financial impact to society attributable to obesity, at current prices, is estimated to become an additional £45.5 billion per year by 2050 with a seven-fold increase in NHS [National Health Service] costs alone.’
Now, the National Obesity Forum (NOF) has claimed: ‘It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the determinations of the 2007 Foresight Report, while shocking at the time, may now underestimate the scale of the problem… Not only is the obesity situation in the UK not improving, but the doomsday scenario set out in that report might underestimate the true scale of the problem.’ Unsurprisingly, there are calls for ‘concerted action’ and for the shock tactics of anti-smoking campaigns to be applied to anti-obesity campaigns.
So how are things really panning out? Let’s look at the Health Survey for England (HSE), the government’s long-running survey of a variety of health-related factors from smoking and drinking to height and weight. Looking at the data for adults, the latest report, published at the end of last year, states: ‘These data have shown that overweight and obesity appear to be continuing at a similar level to the last few years, presently neither increasing nor decreasing.’
Source: Health Survey for England, 2012