UK Children Contributing to Rising Obesity Levels Worldwide as Numbers Hit 1 Billion

Recent reports have confirmed that the global number of obese people has hit over 1 billion, with the UK contributing to a significant amount, many of whom are children.

Alarming Global Obesity Rates

More than a billion people worldwide are now identified as obese, according to updated estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), with the UK being one of the worst countries contributing to the crisis.

A recent report published in The Lancet revealed a doubling of global obesity rates since 1990, affecting approximately 17 million individuals in the UK.

According to the reports, eight million women in the UK are classified as obese, along with 7.4 million men, 760,000 boys, and 590,000 girls, catapulting the country up the leaderboard for global obesity.

Obesity Overtakes Underweight

Obesity has become more prevalent than being underweight in numerous nations, including low- and middle-income countries that were previously grappling with undernourishment.

The World Health Organization has pinned the problem down to food and beverage companies, arguing that they must be held responsible for producing high-sugar, fatty snacks available worldwide.

The updated estimates draw from data collected from over 220 million individuals across more than 190 countries, with the author saying “A staggering number of people are living with obesity.”

Alarming Rise in UK Obesity

In the UK, obesity rates have surged, particularly among women, rising from 13.8% in 1990 to 28.3% in 2022. For men, the increase went from 10.7% to 26.9%. 

Children also witnessed a notable rise, with 10.1% of young girls and a staggering 12.1% of young boys appearing under the category of obese in the UK.

Obesity Rises in Poorer Countries

Obesity is now appearing in poorer countries for the first time, with unhealthy snacks becoming readily available and more affordable than healthy foods, which WHO argued never used to be the case.

“In the past, we have been thinking of obesity as a problem of the rich. Obesity is a problem of the world,” said WHO’s Head of Nutrition Francesco Branca.

Author of the UK study, Professor Majid Ezzati, argued, “It is vital we improve the availability and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods.”

Boris Johnson’s Ban

The UK government implemented a ban on advertising products that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson became concerned about the nation’s obesity.

This ban came after Johnson blamed being hospitalized by COVID-19 on his poor health and struggles with obesity, while the UK saw its obesity rates almost double from 1990 to 2019.

Health Risks and Impact on Life

Childhood obesity increases the risk of conditions such as “type 2 diabetes, cancer, mental health issues and many other illnesses, which can lead to shorter and unhappier lives,” according to Professor Simon Kenny, NHS England’s national clinical director for children and young people.

Kenny expressed concern about the impact of obesity on children’s health, adding that the NHS aims to address extreme weight issues through a network of specialist clinics, which he says “offer tailored packages of physical, psychological and social support.”

Department of Health Statement

Despite the alarming increase in obesity statistics in the UK, the Department of Health and Social Care argued that it has already done a lot to help reduce the issue, claiming it is “taking firm action to tackle obesity.”

According to a spokesperson, the NHS spends £6.5 billion a year to try and reduce obesity in the UK, starting initiatives like “mandatory calorie labelling” and implementing a rule that only allows a strict number of unhealthy food restaurants in one area.

WHO’s Call for Action

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus advocated for measures such as taxing high-sugar products and promoting healthy school meals to address the obesity epidemic.

Despite these calls to action, a rise in healthy food prices worldwide is forcing lower-income families to rely on cheaper, unhealthy alternatives full of sugar, fat and high cholesterol.

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