Government must act to prevent rising UK obesity rate

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Obesity is “the biggest public health crisis facing the UK today” the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has warned.

In a landmark six-month inquiry into the nation’s bulging waistlines, Measuring up: The medical profession’s prescription for the nation’s obesity crisis, the academy branded the UK the “fat man of Europe” and recommended: the introduction of mandatory food-based standards for UK hospitals; a ban on new fast-food outlets being located close to schools and colleges; and a 20% duty levy on all sugary soft drinks.

It has also recommended the introduction of a “traffic light” food labelling system in restaurants, especially fast-food outlets, and called on the Government to spend around £100 million in each of the next three years on increasing provision of weight-management services across the country. Finally, it has called for a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before the 9pm watershed and for existing mandatory food- and nutrient-based standards in England to be statutory across the board in free schools and academies.

Professor Terence Stephenson, a paediatrician and chair of the academy, said: “It’s time to stop making excuses and begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on.

“Otherwise, the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition.”

In a separate development, the latest statistics have shown obesity-related hospital admissions have increased in England.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre have shown that hospitals in England reported 11,740 in-patient admissions with a primary diagnosis of obesity in 2011/12. This is 1% more than in 2010/11 (11,570) and triple the number recorded five years earlier (3,860 in 2006/07).

Female admissions were almost three times the number of male admissions (8,740 compared with 2,990), the centre added.

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