Brits challenge Americans in the obesity stakes

According to a new UK government report, if current trends continue, by the year 2010, 12 million adults plus 1 million children in England will be obese.

The report, "Forecasting Obesity 2010 was carried out for the Department of Health in order to predict what levels of obesity would exist in England in 2010.

It has estimated, judging by current trends in obesity, that approximately one third of all English adults and one fifth of all children aged 2-15 will be obese by 2010.

The report found that in 2003, 22% of men were obese, 43% were overweight and 35% were of ideal weight or underweight.

Twenty three percent of women were obese, 33% were overweight and 44% were of ideal weight or underweight.

According to the report these figures will have changed considerably by 2010 when up to 33% of men, and 31% of women will be obese, and 22% of girls and 19% of boys will be obese.

This equates to one third of all English adults and one fifth of all children aged 2-15, obese by 2010.

Hand in hand with this rise will go an increase in the number of patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The number of obese men will rise from 4 million to 7 million, and for women the numbers are expected to go up from 4.7 million to 6 million.

The report says people are getting fatter because they are becoming less physically active and eating more junk food and this has grave implications for National Health Service costs and will go way beyond the present one billion pounds.

Prime Minister Tony Blair says a new fitness strategy is urgently needed and has asked all government departments to work together on the issue.

The report estimates that obesity among men will be similar throughout all socioeconomic classes but obesity prevalence among working class women is expected to be about 10% higher than for their middle-class counterparts in 2010.

There also appears to be a profound regional difference with the worse areas expected to be in northern England, which will have virtually double the obesity rates, when compared to London and the south-east of the country.

Health campaigners have demanded that ministers ban all junk food advertising before 9pm and say England could be entering an era where children, for the first time in centuries, will have shorter life expectancies than their parents.

Last week Britain put in place a Minister for Fitness, whose brief is to tackle obesity; the position has been branded as a gimmick to shift attention from the government's failure to tackle the problem.

The government appears to favour voluntary restrictions by TV advertisers but many health care professionals and politicians say this a half-measure which will achieve little, and many including the government watchdog the Food Standards Agency, the British Heart Foundation and the National Obesity Forum, have warned that the options will not sort out the problem.

Despite the fact that over the last few years food manufacturers have lowered the levels of salt and sugar in foods and schools have taken measures to provide more nutritious meals, obesity rates continue to soar and England appears to be heading towards current U.S. obesity rates.

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