Burger obesity

Claims of an obesity ’doomsday scenario’ are exaggerated, according to the UK Health Forum

A “doomsday” scenario for obesity levels in the UK predicted by health campaigners is an exaggeration and does not take into account improvements brought about by voluntary industry and government measures to make products healthier, it has been claimed.

The National Obesity Forum (NOF) claimed today rising obesity rates in the UK could have been underestimated, saying the rates could surpass even the findings of the 2007 Foresight Report, which predicted that by 2050, 50% of the nation would be obese (a PDF of its report can be found here).

However, the UK Health Forum, which carried out the original work on the Foresight Report, has accused the NOF of not only overestimating the claims but of failing to back them up with research.

It said that an as-yet unpublished analysis in a forthcoming paper will show that on current trends – based on nearly two decades of data (1993 to 2011) from the Health Survey for England – obesity levels are predicted to actually be slightly lower than forecast in 2007. 

“While obesity rates continue to rise, they are doing so according to our research at a slightly slower rate than the NOF report implies”

Tim Marsh, UK Health Forum

While obesity rates continue to rise, it said, they are doing so at a slightly slower rate than the NOF report implies.

“We welcome the spotlight this new report turns onto obesity and the call to step up action to prevent unhealthy weight gain and the many health problems that are caused and worsened by obesity,” said the UK Health Forum’s director of modelling and simulations Tim Marsh.

But he added: “While obesity rates continue to rise, they are doing so according to our research at a slightly slower rate than the NOF report implies.”

Even with new analysis of a more complete dataset, predicted rates of obesity will still affect round half of the population.

However, the trends suggest that since the publication of the Foresight Report in 2007, there has been a slight improvement in younger age groups (under 40 years). 

“Since the Foresight Report was published, awareness of obesity has increased significantly, some of the report’s recommendations for action have been implemented in local and national policy action, and we are probably beginning to see the impact of these changes,” added Marsh.

He said it was impossible to measure the impact of reformulation made by the industry on areas such as calories and fat reduction, but told The Grocer: “It’s likely that there has been some impact. Our figures are based on seven years of data whereas there is very little in the way of research in the NOF’s report.”

Read this: Obesity in the UK: Who’s saying what?