You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what is the root cause of obesity, do you? No, it is self evident because being overweight, being fat, being obese, just results from eating too much for your body’s particular energy needs. This has become a major health problem even in less populous places, when around the World overall some five per cent of all children and 12 per cent of all adults are now obese.
Now, that is a troubling issue here in Britain also, although we are nowhere near the top of the obesity league, and it is evidenced in many other countries as well – particularly as we notice with our overweight cousins in America [33% are obese], eh? Britain has the highest obesity rates in western Europe as evidenced by 30000 associated deaths,
[THE TOP OF THE OBESE LEAGUE
- American Samoa (7 South Pacific islands and atolls)
- Nauru (tiny island country in Micronesia, northeast of Australia)
- Cook Islands (15 islands country in the South Pacific, with political links to New Zealand)
- Tokelau (a remote group of atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, accessed by boat from Samoa)
- Tonga (Oceania, kingdom of more than 170 South Pacific islands, many uninhabited)
17.Egypt (just ahead of the US, has the biggest weight problem of the world’s 20 most populous countries)]
Obesity has become a modern day catastrophic health issue in the UK – it will overtake tobacco smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death – and is one which has been brought about by a number of interconnected factors, hasn’t it? Yep, while large swathes of the World’s population suffer from poverty and food shortages, conversely we in the West suffer from affluence and food gluts – we not only have an ‘over-sufficiency’ of food but we have an ‘over-indulgence’ of choice, which inevitably encourages excessive eating and non-water drinking, leading to excessive calorific intake which the body is geared-up to store as fat for energy use in harsher times – which NEVER come, eh? So people simply get fat and fatter, and ill and ill’er, don’t they?
The thing is that the general population in the UK leads a pretty sedentary lifestyle these days, with minimal physical activity expended in work activities [manual work replaced by machines, you see], nor indeed in home activities [labour saving devices abound including even robot floor cleaners, all remote controllable via the internet], nor either in getting around [walking replaced by cycles, replaced by cars, buses, and trains]. A good indicator of just how bad things have got regarding the common lack of physical activity in ‘normal’ life [essential for the body’s wellbeing] is the growth and widespread use of gyms which used to be the prerogative and the need of the ‘idle rich’ to try to keep fit [there are nowadays over 7,000 gyms in the UK with a membership of about 10 million (1 in every 7 people in Britain is a member of a gym – the other 6 just get fat?) – the irony is that most go to the costly gym to use a waking/running machine so users go absolutely nowhere, when they could just walk/run outside on the ground for free and actually go somewhere interesting, eh? Others are keeping fit or are losing weight by regular cycling – in some places up fourfold over the past 25 years
Then of course, the debilitating issues of excessive food consumption and lack of normal exercise, is amplified as well, by people’s changing use of their free/social time, aren’t they? Digging the garden has been replaced by using the rotavator, scything the grass superseded by the push mover, superseded by the petrol/ electric mower, cutting back the hedge or bushes by the strimmer, the sawing-off of tree branches is delegated to the chainsaw – moreover these days everybody stays indoors incessantly, so possibly suffers sunshine deficiency, and just nobody plants potatoes or grows vegetables in their gardens, however big: walking a mile or two to the cinema has been replaced by a car ride at best, or more likely an evening (or seven?) in front of the telly watching fantasy on Netflix or Sky or others playing sport: no need now for a trip out shopping and lugging a heavy load home, as it’s not just the infirm, but even the millennials that have their groceries delivered every week, and just about EVERYBODY buys their other goods online to avoid the effort of hitting the high street: visiting family and friends, however local, is totally out of the question these days, when no one communicates face to face anymore because all human contact for everyone has been subverted by the ‘must be answered’ mobile phone, texting, and the now addictive social media, hasn’t it?
Coming finally to the crux of the matter of dealing with obesity then, we have the totally un-tackled matter of the plethora of fast food outlets in our towns and cities, which not only has driven-up the UK’S obesity crisis, but is continuing to do so and will carry-on ad infinitum unless it is brought to a halt, won’t it?
Now, despite the ‘obesogenic environment’ issue, where conditions of everyday life promote obesity, being on the agenda for a decade or more, no British government has had the balls to do anything about it – not only frit of the powerful food industry but wary of upsetting the voters, as well? Irresponsible? Most certainly, so allowing incessant promotion and harmful cut-price deals, often targeting children, by the ‘conscience-challenged’ advertising brigade., conjoined with over-indulgence of the personal choice of the unwary, the weak and the lazy, to override parliament’s national duty to protect society from bloodsucking business, but they just ‘watch and wait’ as overweight and obesity has holed the good ship NHS below the waterline and will continue to take-on water fast until it sinks, has been disgraceful, don’t you think?
[Cost annually to the NHS £25billion (?), with admissions to hospital due to weight and obesity doubled over 4 years (stroke, heart decease, cancer, diabetes, mental health, asthma, gallstones, hip replacement, knee replacement, toe amputation, limb amputation, pregnancy risk, liver disease, kidney disease)]
It will not have escaped the attention of many that the Government have more recently been making some lame attempts to tackle the Country’s obesity problem, but only by trying to curtail the food industry’s panache for flooding Britain with unnecessarily over-sugared food and drink – but it is pissing in the wind because it’s not working, as evidenced by the industry’s total failure to voluntarily meet official and agreed sugar reduction targets, and that’s because the ‘couldn’t care less’ blighters who produce killer processed-food make their quick bucks by selling garbage food that has been over-sweetened to make it palatable, don’t they?
[Of the top 20 brands responsible for the greatest amount of sugar, 50% made NO CHANGE, 33% cut some sugar, and 12% simply ADDED MORE SUGAR]
There is though that single area which can be targeted instead, and one that will be much more effectively, and is that of junk and fast food outlets, as they have become the ‘in-your-face’ blight of our high streets and are turbo charging the epidemic that is dragging Britain into the obesity abyss, by their pursuit of a shed load of dirty money and while doing so are wreaking the lives of adults with over a quarter of us obese, and even crushing the futures of our youngest children [one in five of our British children are now obese when they leave primary school – ‘brought up’ on fast food by irresponsible parents hence they learn to prefer it for the rest of their lives, eh?)]
The general problem with so-called ‘fast-food’ is that it includes ingredients which have almost no nutritional value in our body but can have significant negative effects on our health – it is ultra-processed [which results in higher calories than normal cooking], and also ladened with sugars, fats, sodium/salt, starches, monosodium glutamate (MSG), lacks sufficient fiber, is vitamin-less and most destructively it is just all-pervasive, easy, stacked full of flavourings, cheap & highly affordable, uses bright primary colours to attract the young, is heavily promoted & marketed, but is junk fattening food, that causes early death – a decade of life is lost by the obese
As you might guess, fast food restaurants kicked-off in the US (nearly a hundred years ago), so it is just like many bad things we in the UK have to blame America for (as well as good stuff, of course), isn’t it? As you might also suspect, the fast food chains McDonald’s and KFC were also there early into the game of making the world obese and they have grown now into multinational corporations with outlets across the globe
- [McDonald’s have been in the UK for 40 years and are the biggest fast food chain here with some 1250 outlets]
- Rutland is the ONLY county in Britain that does NOT have a McDonald’s, but the chain is trying to open one and a big row is underway as locals are demanding planning permission be refused]
Most people don’t realize that for those who live near to a fast food shop the risk of obesity doubles, nor that we all underestimate how much we are eating and overestimate how much we will burn off with exercise – it’s almost impossible to burn-off a takeaway!
The high streets in our cities, our towns, and our villages, instead of being the bastion of community retailers like butchers, bakers, greengrocers, clothes shops, or the like, has transformed into a haven for junk food outlets, to the extent that you wouldn’t be able to walk a dozen yards along a main road in some big centers without passing a fat-food peddling unit, would you? No, there are some bloody 60,000 of them in UK with many towns now ‘dominated’ by burgers and kebabs outlets as well as the more traditional fish & chips shops.
[Blackpool, the vintage, iconic, seaside resort, was identified in 2015 as possibly the takeaway capital of the UK with 279 takeaway shops – so roughly one takeaway for every 500 people of the town’s population].
The government needs to formulate a strategy to not only halt in its tracks the growth of that type of business, but to roll back the ones that are out-there already – there has to be a game changer whereby it is no longer profitable to be in the fast food business. The problem is compounded by cheap take-away deliveries through Just Eat and Uber
To start, the local authorities must be forced by government legislation to refuse planning permission for ANY new fast food shop/takeaway without exception and whatever justification, AND in conjunction with that require a ‘change of use’ when a junk food premises changes hand
A new sales tax at the point of purchase, which takes into account both nutritional value and calories of foods, HAS to be imposed. It needs to progressively increase year on year in a similar manner used in the fuel price escalator to reduce usage, but in this case be tied to obesity levels – and kept in place until that illness crises has been cured. [The massive funds so raised should be ‘ring-fenced’ and allocated to the NHS]
That will raise the price of fast food which MUST become much less affordable, but in doing it is going to hit hardest the low-income groups and poorest communities and areas of the Country where it is indeed the most popular –AND CAUSES THE GREATEST OBESITY and the maximum risk of diet-related disease. That therefore is a problem that the government needs to deal with in parallel so that such communities can afford healthy food and become less ill – that requires ministers to increase welfare benefit payments to low-income households, and include help through maternity food vouchers and universal free school meals
[A ‘Food Foundation’ study last year reported that 4 million children in the UK live in family households that cannot meet the government’s own healthy food guidelines for fruit, vegetables, fish and other healthy foods]
Now the food industry and its fast food corporate giants will squeal like stuck pigs and fight tooth and nail against such a move but our society already has the evidence that nothing voluntary works with them as their attitude is solely profit, profit, profit, and bollocks to peoples’ health – exactly the same bloody attitude displayed by the tobacco peddlers [who only got seen-off by debilitating legislation, eh?]
There is evidence already from elsewhere [Hungary and Mexico] that junk food taxes work by changing people’s eating habits for the better and that junk food manufacturers are forced to reformulate products to healthier recipes.
[If the UK government doesn’t immediately resort to enacting tough tax measures on the junk fast-food pushers we can say goodbye to health and the NHS within a decade]