Britain's obesity woes and its 'diet plan' amid pandemic
With more than 60% of adults in Britain considered overweight or obese, according to Public Health England, the coronavirus crisis has put the obesity issue at the forefront of the government’s thinking.
"Obesity time bomb" is ticking in Britain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who believes that being overweight was a factor in his contracting a more severe form of COVID-19, wants Britons to lose weight and "reduce their risks" from the deadly virus. So in a new set of measures unvelied to tackle the crisis, TV and online adverts for junk food before 9.00 pm will be banned, “buy one get one free” deals on unhealthy food will also end and calories would have to be displayed on menus.
Johnson, who has lost weight since he was in intensive care with COVID-19, wants to tackle obesity in Britain after research showed those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from the coronavirus.
Last month, he said Britain was fatter than most European countries apart from Malta and his government described “tackling the obesity time bomb” as a priority. Experts say that almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese, with similar figures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Ditching his earlier stance as a non-believer of “nannying” politics, Johnson's government is announcing a new drive to help people to “take control of their own future by losing weight, getting active and adopting a healthier lifestyle”.
Alongside the ban on adverts before 9.00 pm (2000 GMT), on food deals and plans for the calorific content of meals to be displayed on menus, the government will also launch a consultation on displaying calories on alcohol. Labelling of calories on menus will apply to any restaurant, cafe or takeaway chain with more than 250 employees, and another new consultation will be launched around plans to provide the same information for alcoholic drinks, the BBC reported.
“Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier,” Johnson said in a statement.
“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS (National Health Service).”
With more than 60% of adults in Britain considered overweight or obese, according to Public Health England, the coronavirus crisis has put the obesity issue at the forefront of the government’s thinking, with a “Better Health” campaign being launched alongside the new measures.
Weight management services will be expanded in the NHS, and Public Health England will call on people to embrace a healthier lifestyle and to lose weight if they need to, supported by a range of evidence-based tools and apps.
“Everyone knows how hard losing weight can be so we are taking bold action to help everyone who needs it,” Health Minister Matt Hancock said.
“To help support people we need to reduce unhelpful influences like promotions and adverts that affect what you buy and what you eat. Taken together, supported by an inspiring campaign and new smart tools, will get the country eating healthily and losing the pounds.”
Supporting people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight may reduce the severe effects of COVID-19 on the population, especially among vulnerable groups who are most affected by obesity, UK health experts said.
OBESITY INCREASES DEATH RISKS FROM COVID-19: PHS
PHS had said in a report last week that people who are obese or overweight are at increased risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19. It said data showed that for people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30-35, risk of death from coronavirus increased by 40%, and it increased by 90% for those with a BMI over 40 compared to those of a healthy weight.
People with a BMI of over 30 are classed as obese under the system. PHE said that almost 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, also backed the strategy, saying it would "save lives".
"These bold measures will help us tip the scales on obesity. The argument for action is the clearest it's ever been," she added.
Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health at the University of Oxford, said she would be pleased to see Johnson acknowledge the extent of the public health crisis Britain faces when it comes to tackling obesity.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "This is a landmark day for the nation's health. "Being overweight or obese puts people at risk of many diseases, including 13 different types of cancer, and disproportionately affects people from poorer backgrounds so the plan will hugely help to level-up the country and build a healthier population."