Scales obesity

David Cameron has been urged to call Operation Cobra-style emergency meetings to tackle an obesity crisis among the middle classes.

The call is made in a report by think tank 2020health, which accuses politicians and campaigners of only concentrating on the impact on the poor and socially deprived.

The study claimed to “blow apart” previous “simplistic” approaches to obesity, which it said had failed to recognise an alarming trend among men from the middle and upper financial classes.

The research paper, ‘Fat Chance?’, an independent study funded by AB Sugar, found that while there was still “overwhelming” evidence that the likelihood of obesity was increased by deprivation amid lower socioeconomic communities, there were also emerging new trends.

It said while previously women were deemed more likely to be obese than men, obesity rates were now increasing among men, especially the middle-aged, many of them from wealthy backgrounds.

Report author Dr Aaron Parkhurst, a medical anthropologist at University College London, said: “What has emerged in recent research, however, is that, within specific communities, obesity rates are now rising among other economic groups. In some areas, within middle and upper financial classes, men are becoming far more affected by obesity.”

The report says MPs have been too focused on tackling issues such as marketing to children, food labelling and a sugar tax on soft drinks.

It argues that other factors, including parental weight, access to green spaces and the safety of roads also had strong influence on obesity rate.

“We have now reached crisis point, and we call on the government to facilitate Cobra-style emergency meetings on obesity and nutrition,” said Julia Manning, 2020health chief executive. “Successive politicians have not come anywhere near to a successful, holistic plan that will tackle the obesity crisis, which is weighing down the NHS, economy and welfare state.”

It is the second 2020health report funded by AB Sugar, to call for radical new government policies on obesity, A report last year called ‘Careless Eating, Costs Lives’ called for a hypothecated tax to be raised from products found to be “harmful to health” which would be used to fund anti-obesity measures. It also called for the Responsibility Deal to be turned into a regulatory framework.