The obesity crisis in the UK is a growing concern, with rates of obesity continuing to rise in both adults and children. Many mainstream diet plans and weight-loss programs are available to those looking to lose weight, but some experts argue that these plans often fail to address the underlying causes of obesity and do not provide sustainable solutions for weight loss. This article will examine the obesity crisis in the UK and explore how diet plans may be falling short in addressing the problem.
The rise of obesity
This article from the BBC, which features an investigation by Jacques Peretti, argues that changes in the food we eat, particularly the increase in sugar ingestion, is to blame for the obesity crisis in the UK. Professor Jimmy Bell, an obesity specialist at Imperial College London, is quoted as saying, “We’re being bombarded every day by the food industry to consume more and more food… And as a scientist I feel really depressed, because we are losing the war against obesity.”
The article also points to the mass production of corn and high-fructose corn syrup in the 1970s as a major contributing factor to the rise in obesity, with nutritionist Marion Nestle stating that this increase in available calories “is the cause of a great deal of difficulty.” The article also cited experts discussing the role of fructose, which is highly sweet by-product of waste corn, is cheaper and more addictive. Also, the over consumption of fizzy drinks as it’s cheaper and sweeter as compared to sugar is also discussed as a contributing factor to the rise in obesity.The UK Obesity crisis in a nutshell
Obesity and the link with education
The study from the OECD examines the relationship between education and obesity using health survey data from Australia, Canada, England, and South Korea. The study found that there is a linear relationship between the number of years spent in full-time education and the probability of obesity, with more educated individuals displaying lower rates of the condition.
The causal nature of the link between education and obesity has not yet been proven but it is suggested that education may have a positive effect on obesity through a greater access to health-related information, a clearer perception of the risks associated with lifestyle choices, and improved self-control and consistency of preferences over time. The study also found that the effect of education on obesity is likely to be determined by an individual’s position in the social hierarchy, as access to resources required to maintain a healthy weight may be driven by an individual’s social position.
In layman’s terms, the study found that people with more education have a lower rate of obesity and the reason for this is not completely certain. But it is suggested that people with more education have better access to information, are more aware of the risks of certain lifestyle choices and have more self-control and consistency when it comes to making choices that affect their weight. Additionally, the study also suggest that people’s position in the social hierarchy is also play a role.
There are several studies and reports that have investigated the relationship between education level and susceptibility to fad diets.
The study “On the interplay between educational attainment and nutrition: a spatially-aware perspective” by Narges Azizi Fard, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Yelena Mejova & Rossano Schifanella, examines the relationship between education and food choices, by using a large dataset of food purchases made at a grocery store in Greater London. The study used statistical models that account for the spatial dependencies, to analyze the data.
The results of the study suggest that areas with higher levels of education tend to have healthier and more diverse diets, characterized by a higher consumption of fibers, fruits, vegetables, and fish products, along with a more balanced and diversified nutritional intake. While areas with lower levels of education are more likely to have diets that are high in carbohydrates, sweets, and red meats, as well as a higher caloric intake and average portion size. The study highlights the importance of considering social, economic, and cultural contexts when designing health policies and interventions.
Why diet plans are falling short
Mainstream diet plans usually have a gimmick (keto, plant based, 5:1) and a promise of quick results and often backed up by a celebrity who has recently done it. Some may be crash diets which are dangerously unhealthy but can get quick results.
Many, however, will completely overlook the simple content of calorific deficits, a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise. Others, we we won’t name directly suggest some ‘healthy’ foods can be eaten in ‘unlimited’ quantities, examples being eggs, rice and pasta. These foods are complex carbohydrates and can easily be consumed casually leading to a calorie surplus and further weight gain.
Even after consuming their infinite amount of pasta, clients can still have a high sugar treat so long as they use their calculator.
Others advocate large amounts of meat, including red, which has links to bowel cancer as reported by the NHS. Healthline reported that the The Dukan Diet” is complicated, eliminates lots of healthy foods, may prompt health concerns due to its high protein content, and is probably not a long-term solution for weight loss”
The University of Kansas (Mike Krings) found that vulnerable populations with less education are more likely to believe and then share misinformation.
And finally, Charlotte Markey, Ph.D has this “One thing that scientists who study weight management know without question is that the diet industry is delighted when we fail on our diets. Because, we’re likely to try again and that just makes them more money! Imagine if the first diet you tried worked – the multibillion dollar dieting industry would disappear!”
So, we now understand that fad diets generally don’t work, but their hook can easily capture the most vulnerable in our society without any accountability and continue the obesity cycle over and over again. People are getting dangerously unwell and then desperate for a quick solution rather than a solid long term plan through education.
Why this is concerning
Obesity is a major public health problem that is associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes. For individuals, it increases the risk of various chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity also increases the risk of premature death and can negatively impact quality of life by causing mobility issues, social isolation, and mental health problems.
In addition to these individual risks, the high prevalence of obesity also has significant impacts on national health systems. The costs associated with treating obesity-related conditions place a heavy burden on healthcare systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that obesity and overweight are responsible for 2-8% of health spending in developed countries. This cost is not only financial, but also includes the strain it places on healthcare professionals and medical facilities.
Moreover, the obesity crisis also causes a significant economic loss through lower productivity, increased absenteeism, and disability. The absenteeism caused by obesity and its associated health problems can be costly for employers. Obesity is also linked with lower productivity, both at work and at home, as well as with higher rates of disability and premature retirement.
It is important to remember that the relationship between low education and obesity is complex and multifaceted, and the problem of obesity cannot be reduced to a single cause. However, it is clear that addressing the problem of obesity will require a multi-faceted approach that considers not just the individual but also the structural and societal factors that contribute to the problem. Education may be one of those factors that need to be considered in fighting the obesity crisis.
According to a 2014 study published in the National Library of Medicine the obesity epidemic in developing countries is a multifaceted problem that cannot be attributed solely to diet, physical activity or socioeconomic status. The study, “Overweight and Obesity Epidemic in Developing Countries: A Problem with Diet, Physical Activity, or Socioeconomic Status?” by authors Trishnee Bhurosy and Rajesh Jeewon, provides an in-depth analysis of the current situation of obesity in developing countries. The study states that in developing countries, obesity is primarily a result of the change of lifestyle and environmental factors, such as changes in dietary habits, physical activity, and socioeconomic status.
The study also highlights that, as economic development is happening in developing nations, their obesity trends will likely surpass those of developed countries. The authors urge that to address the obesity epidemic in these countries, a multidisciplinary approach is needed that addresses the immediate environment of the individual, as well as broader socioeconomic contexts, including food policies and education for low-income populations.
What needs to happen next?
As the obesity crisis continues to grow in the UK and other developed countries, it’s clear that more needs to be done to address the root causes of the problem. One important step is holding dietitians and mainstream diet plans accountable for educating their clients about the true causes of obesity and effective weight loss strategies.
Additionally, it’s crucial for the government to invest in education and intervention programs for children at an early age. The earlier children learn about healthy eating and exercise habits, the more likely they are to maintain those habits as they grow older. This is particularly important in working-class and low socio-economic communities, where access to healthy food options and education may be limited.
Furthermore, there needs to be more incentives and support provided to low-income populations to have access to healthy food options, better distribution and food policies, to be able to make healthy choices.
It’s also important to remember that addressing the obesity crisis is not just about weight loss. It’s about creating a culture of health and wellness that supports individuals in making healthy choices and promotes active, sustainable lifestyles. By taking a holistic approach and addressing the underlying causes of obesity, we can begin to make a real impact on this growing problem.