Scottish health professionals tackle problems of obesity

The University of Glasgow is bringing together experts in the field of obesity management to address a conference on Friday 7 May 2004 for health professionals on how to tackle obesity.

Adult obesity rates have tripled since 1982. Currently one in four men and one in five women are classified as obese in the UK. Obesity can lead to health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, strokes and certain cancers.

Dr Paul Newman, General Practitioner, Dinmont Road Medical Practice, is calling for a change in attitudes towards obesity. He said: ' The number of obese men has almost doubled in the last decade, while obesity in woman has increased by 50%. The implications for society are immense and the trend is set to continue unless we change our attitudes to obesity.'

Dr Jason Gill, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow speaking on the importance of physical activity in the maintenance of a healthy body weight said:

'Current guidelines recommend that adults routinely perform at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. This amount of activity is probably enough to reduce risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes but greater levels of daily physical activity may be necessary to maintain a healthy body weight throughout life.

He added; 'Physical activity may be a more important factor than body weight in determining risk of heart disease. So it might actually be better to be fat and physically active than to be thin and inactive in terms of heart health'.

Obesity is not only rapidly increasing in many Western countries but also in some developing countries. Leading expert, Professor W Philip T James, Director Public Health Policy Group and Chairman, International Obesity Taskforce says the problem is beginning to replace malnutrition and infectious disease as the most significant contributor to ill health worldwide

Speaking at the conference, he said; 'The challenge is to convert doctors throughout the world to new approaches to medical practice for overweight and obese patients. The burden of the clinical load is totally unrecognised: there are no coherent national management strategies that make sense.

'Long-term weight management is now a practical proposition. Diet, physical activity and monitoring behaviour change are recognised as being essential. Crash diets are totally inappropriate'.

He continued; 'Dietary and physical activity interventions are crucial in developing countries where, because of drug costs, most patients are being excluded.'

Other leading experts gathering in Glasgow include Professor Mike Lean, Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Glasgow who said: 'Health professionals and doctors recognise the theoretical potential to prevent obesity but they need to roll up their sleeves urgently to treat it'

In addition, Dr David Mela, Lead Scientist, Weight Control, Unilver, will address the issue of the potential role of the food industry in this challenge. He commented: 'The food industry does offer a broad range of products, many of which can be helpful in obesity prevention or weight loss.'

Judith Hodgson ([email protected])

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