Obesity in the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Obesity in the United Kingdom is a growing health concern, with officials stating that it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the UK. In February 2012, experts predicted that by the year 2020 one third of the United Kingdom could be obese.[1][2] According to Forbes, United Kingdom ranks 28 on a 2007 list of fattest countries.[3] Britain was also listed as the country with the 58th fattest waistline amongst 81 countries.[4]

Adult obesity rates have almost quadrupled in the last 25 years, with 23.1% of British people obese as of 2012.[5][6] The Midlands is the United Kingdom's most overweight area, with Tamworth in Staffordshire being the fattest town with a 30.7% obesity rate.[7]


There are various causes of obesity in the United Kingdom, including Americanisation and the globalisation of America, the spread of fast food chains and cheap unhealthy food.[8][1] While unhealthy diets and lack of appropriate physical activity are also considered leading causes, some experts argue that this is not the case. Professor Jimmy Bell, obesity specialist at Imperial College London, said that, contrary to popular belief, the people of the United Kingdom have not become greedier or less active in recent years. One thing that has changed is the food that they eat, and, more specifically, the sheer amount of sugar they ingest. "We're being bombarded every day by the food industry to consume more and more food. It's a war between our bodies and the demands our body makes, and the accessibility that modern society gives us with food. And as a scientist I feel really depressed, because we are losing the war against obesity."[9]

There are also a number of genetic, medical and psychological factors that play a part in the nation's culture of obesity. Medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and various endocrine disorders can be contributing factors to weight gain. Medicines such as anti-depressants, corticosteroids and contraceptives are also examples of a long list of pills that can cause excess weight gain. Attention must always be given to a classic cause: comfort eating; a complex psychological issue in its own right. (NHS choices, 2012)

Tackling obesity[edit]

Over the last 9 years the United Kingdom has taken many measures in an attempt to tackle its obesity problem. British chef Jamie Oliver began a formal campaign to ban unhealthy food in British schools and to get children eating nutritious food instead. Oliver's efforts to bring radical change to the school meals system, chronicled in the series Jamie's School Dinners, challenged the junk-food culture by showing schools they could serve healthy, cost-efficient meals that kids enjoyed eating.[10] The British Government and Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to take steps to improve school dinners shortly after the programme aired. The programme prompted 271,677 people to sign an online petition on the Feed Me Better website, which was delivered to 10 Downing Street on 30 March 2005. As a result the government added an extra £280 million ($316m USD) to help with the school meals plan.[11] Currently fried foods are only allowed to be served twice a week and soft drinks are no longer available.[12] The Department for Education and Skills created the School Food Trust, a £60 million initiative to provide support and advice to school administrators to improve the standard of school meals.

In October 2011, British prime minister David Cameron told reporters that his government might introduce a Fat tax as part of the solution to the United Kingdom's obesity problem.[13] In 2013 Britain's 220,000 doctors demanded a 20% Fat tax on fizzy drinks and healthier food for hospitals.[14]

Due to obesity campaigns and an influx of celebrity British chefs Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White and many others television shows and books encouraging and teaching the public to cook and eat healthily, American fast food chains McDonald's and Burger King have seen sales slump in the United Kingdom, and as a result McDonald's closed down 25 branches, and Burger King closed down 21 branches.[15][16] Another reason for this is because the United Kingdom also started to aire a series of very graphic medical television shows (Supersize vs Superskinny and Embarrassing Bodies) that attempt to shock and educate viewers into a healthy lifestyle.

In 2013 doctors of the United Kingdom united to form what they call a 'prescription' for the UK's obesity epidemic. The report presents an action plan for future campaigning activity, setting out 10 recommendations for healthcare professionals, local and national government, industry and schools which it believes will help tackle the nation’s obesity crisis.[17]

Recommendations include:

  • Food-based standards to be mandatory in all UK hospitals
  • A ban on new fast food outlets being located close to schools and colleges
  • A duty on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%, to be piloted
  • Traffic light food labelling to include calorie information for children and adolescents – with * visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets
  • £100m in each of the next three years to be spent on increasing provision of weight management services across the country
  • A ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm
  • Existing mandatory food- and nutrient-based standards in England to be statutory in free schools and academies

The government also used the London 2012 Summer Olympics to help tackle obesity and inspire people into a healthy active lifestyle. Health Secretary Alan Johnson set up Olympic themed Roadshows and mass participation events such as city runs. A £30 million grant was also issued to build cycle paths, playgrounds and encourage children to cut out snacks.[18] Prime Minister David Cameron announced an annual £150 million ($227-USD) boost for school sport as part of London 2012 legacy. The funding is "ring-fenced", meaning it can only be spent on sports activities such as after school clubs, coaching and dedicated sports programmes.[19]


British sperm quality has been negatively affected by obesity.[20][21]



Annual survey, conducted by Men's Fitness magazine.

City Obesity Rank 2006, Obesity Rank 2005
Bradford 1 4
Liverpool 2 3
Manchester 3 1
Newcastle 4 2
Glasgow 5 5
Birmingham 6 14
Wolverhampton 7 8
Sheffield 8 9
Stoke-on-Trent 9 6
Leeds 10 12
Edinburgh 11 10
Swansea 12 7
Coventry 13 16
Leicester 14 18
Plymouth 15 11
Derby 16 19
Nottingham 17 16
Cardiff 18 21
Bristol 19 15
London 20 22
Southampton 21 12

With regards to childhood obesity, statistics suggest it is more of a problem in London than other parts of the UK Data published in 2013 by London’s Poverty Profile found disparities in child hood obesity rates between London and the rest of England, with 23% of children in London at the age of 10 to 11 being obese, higher than the English average.[22]

Within the European Union[edit]

The obesity rate of the United Kingdom's adult population is 23.1% while the average obesity rate in the European Union is 15.5%.[23]

Country Average weight BMI Daily Calorie Intake Source
United Kingdom 12 st 9 lb 29 2,200 [23]
Italy 11 st 9 lb 26 2,100
France 10 st 9 lb 24 2,200
Germany 11 st 8 lb 26 2,400

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b News Health, BBC. "What caused the obesity crisis in the West?". 
  2. ^ Dr Christian, Jessen. "1/3 of the UK 'could' be obese by 2020". 
  3. ^ Lauren Streib (February 8, 2007). Forbes "World's Fattest Countries". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  4. ^ Nation, Body Active. "Do you live in Britains fattest city?". 
  5. ^ Foynes, Denise. "The 10 fattest countries in the world". 
  6. ^ Post, Huffington (22 February 2012). "10 Fattest countries in the developed world". Huffington Post. 
  7. ^ Bosely, Sarah (18 February 2013). "Obesity fightback begins in Tamworth, fat capital of Britain". The Guardian (London). 
  8. ^ "Why Are 6 Of Top 7 Fattest Countries English Speaking Ones?". Medical News Today. MediLexicon International Ltd. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  9. ^ News Health, BBC (13 June 2012). "What caused the obesity crisis in the West?". BBC News. 
  10. ^ Kühn, Kerstin. "Jamie Oliver says school meals campaign is going as planned". 
  11. ^ News, BBC (30 March 2005). "TV chef welcomes £280m meals plan". BBC News. 
  12. ^ Williams, Rachel (29 March 2010). "Jamie Oliver's school dinners shown to have improved academic results". The Guardian (London). 
  13. ^ Guardian, The (4 October 2011). "UK could introduce 'fat tax', says David Cameron". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ Campbell, Denis (18 February 2013). "Obesity crisis: doctors demand soft drinks tax and healthier hospital food". The Guardian (London). 
  15. ^ News, BBC (28 February 2006). "McDonald's to close 25 UK outlets". BBC News. 
  16. ^ Clark, Andrew (27 April 2007). "UK fat fears grill Burger King". The Guardian (London). 
  17. ^ Medical Royal Colleges, Academy Of. "Doctors Unite to deliver 'prescription' for UK Obesity epidemic". 
  18. ^ Evening Standars, London. "Olympics at centre of new anti-obesity drive". 
  19. ^ Mackay, Duncan. "Cameron announces £150 million boost for school sport as part of London 2012 legacy". 
  20. ^ "Germans: UK sperm fails to satisfy". BBC. 4 March 1999. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  21. ^ "Obesity tied to poorer sperm quality". Reuters. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  22. ^ http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/topics/health/
  23. ^ a b Freeman, Sarah (14 December 2010). "Obesity still eating away at health of the nation". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 18 December 2010.