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How can the obesity epidemic be tackled?

Updated: Jul 25

Obesity is now considered an epidemic. How can this be tackled?


What is obesity, why are the statistics increasing?


If someone is classed as obese or living with obesity, it might be a cause for concern as obesity or living with obesity is considered an epidemic. It is alarming as there are several health risks and diseases linked to obesity. ‘’Worldwide, more than 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese’’ [7]. The figures and statistics looking in to obesity should not be overlooked. Many parents tend to have busy lifestyles. Therefore, commitments towards a healthy lifestyle may not be the centre of attention or biggest priority, one factor which could explain the increase of children who are obese in school. Regardless if an individual is obese or not, everyone should take part in physical activity if possible and maintain a healthy diet to help to reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese.


Awareness is key


Awareness and education are key aspects in influencing what we eat and drink. If we positively look at food and drink, we can begin to shift our minds to look at the foods we eat and their nutritional benefit. Food is what helps to nourish you, provides essential vitamins and minerals, and keeps you alive!


Let’s take a look at childhood which is sometimes where obesity may develop. Children who are obese or overweight during their childhood are more likely to become obese or overweight in their adult years, increasing their chances of many related health risks. Many processes will lead to the development of the obesity’ crisis which can potentially increase in the future if not addressed. What can become argued is the approach taken at home. Children spend most of their time at school or at home. There are plenty of initiatives created within schools for healthy eating. However, the statistics of obesity are still very high and 1 in 3 children who leave school are overweight or obese [5]. The initiative to control advertising for children has been considered which will help to decrease the obesity rates. Children tend to follow habits and by limiting unhealthy food adverts, this can have a positive effect on the number of obesity rates in future. If advertising of unhealthy food becomes less apparent to children, they may be less inclined to crave these foods. As their minds are quite premature in regards to choosing what is right for them, advertising can have a huge effect as it will greatly influence a product or service to whoever the audience may be [4].


It is key to understand losing weight can be a very difficult and stressful task for most people. In a developed country such as the UK, there has been an increase of unhealthy food shops and delivery apps. This has created such an accessible way for people to eat unhealthy foods. Junk food is also glamorised on television and advertising which is harmful towards children and this is why advertising should be limited for children.




Sugar Tax – Why it was Introduced


The sugar tax was implemented in April 2018 and came into effect to tackle obesity and type 2 diabetes. Sugar and carbonated drinks often offer no nutritional benefit, yet people still buy them because they taste so good! These drinks can be harmful because excess consumption of sugar can lead to obesity and also tooth decay. If the increase of taxes on sugar reduces the number of people buying these unhealthy sources, this may provide a healthier standard of living – especially in the current world [2].



The harmful effects of obesity


Prevention is better than cure! There are many risks when it comes to obesity, some of which may cause negative impacts on most areas of a person’s life. A study of the health impacts of obesity laid out various aspects which can affect people’s lives due to obesity. Physical health is of utmost importance. The risk and some of many include; cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. These diseases can be very detrimental to one’s health if not carefully controlled.


Let’s take a further look into type 2 diabetes which is generally associated with those who are overweight or obese.


Regardless if an individual is overweight or not, they are still at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, in some cases, type 2 diabetes can be put into remission if an individual follows a healthy lifestyle or makes lifestyle changes to avoid or better manage the progression of the disease. There seems to be a high-risk factor of type 2 diabetes linked to overweight and obese individuals. Those who are at most risk should start early to lose weight if possible and maintain a balanced diet, and this is important to consider as type 2 diabetes may also cause further complications [1].


The Takeaway Message


In most cases, obesity is a preventable disease. However, there may be certain instances where obesity occurs due to a condition. Some of which could be hereditary factors, infertility, cancers, hypertension, etc. [1]. Every individual should try to implement physical and daily activities and maintain a healthy body weight through diet and lifestyle to avoid or reduce the risk of obesity. Research has shown weight loss emerges by adopting a calorie deficit as one example, which means taking in fewer calories. From engaging in physical activity or consuming fewer calories, weight loss may occur. Adopting both will bring great rewards in regards to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle in general. The NHS recommends adults should participate in regular physical activity every day and include a combination of strength exercises, cardio, and HIIT (high-intensity interval training). A healthy diet alongside regular physical activity should not create a cause of concern [3]. This approach, if taken by many individuals could help the population within the UK to get one step close to tackling the obesity epidemic.


Thank you to this week's guest blog writer Amandeep Dhingra. She is currently studying a Human Nutrition BSc degree at the University of Westminster and going into her second years of studies. She is extremely passionate about nutrition, health and fitness and is currently employed as a Healthy Families Practitioner for a charity called Henry who specialise in helping children have a healthy and happy start throughout childhood. Additionally Amandeep is studying to become a personal trainer and enjoys cooking and volunteering in her spare time. My Instagram is @amsfithealth where she regularly posts fitness and health related posts. Find Amandeep on Linkedin here https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandeep-dhingra-a226b9142/



References

1. Hruby, A., & Hu, F.B. (2015). The Epidemiology of Obesity: A Big Picture. PharmacoEconomics, 33(7), 673-689. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859313/ [Accessed 24 Jun 2020].

2. Jones, C. (2016). The UK sugar tax – a healthy start? British Dental Journal, 221, 59-60. Available from https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2016.522 [Accessed 21 May 2021].

3. NHS.UK. 2021. Exercise. Available from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ [Accessed 25 Jun 2021].

4. Priorities for tackling the obesity crisis in England (2016). Food Foundation. Available from https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Food-Environment-policy-brief.pdf [Accessed 10 July 2021].

5. Public Health England (2017). Public Health Profiles. [online] Phe.org.uk. Available at https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/national-child-measurement-programme [Accessed 11 July 2021].

6. Smith, K.B. and Smith, M.S. (2016). Obesity Statistics. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, 43 (1), 121-135. Available from https://www.primarycare.theclinics.com/action/showCitFormats?pii=S0095-4543%2815%2900098-6&doi=10.1016%2Fj.pop.2015.10.001 [Accessed 6 May 2020].

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