Obesity Facts

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Facts and figures on obesity
30 April, 2012 http://www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/04/obesityfacts/
This information is aimed at healthcare professionals and others wanting to find out about the government’s policy and work on obesity. If you are looking for advice about losing weight and a healthy lifestyle, visit the ‘Lose weight’ section on NHS Choices.
What is obesity?
‘Obesity’ is a clinical term used to describe excess body fat associated with increased risks to health. Being obese can increase the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Not only does obesity affect people’s health, their lives and the lives of their families, but it places a large financial burden on the NHS and the wider economy.
Obesity figures
The prevalence of obesity in England has more than tripled in the last 25 years – find out more about obesity trends on the National Obesity Observatory website.
The latest Health Survey for England (HSE) data shows that in England in 2010:
62.8% of adults (aged 16 or over) were overweight or obese
30.3% of children (aged 2-15) were overweight or obese
26.1% of all adults and 16% of all children were obese
Foresight’s Tackling Obesities: Future Choices report, published in October 2007, predicted that if no action was taken, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in Britain would be obese by 2050. Recently reported modelling suggests that without action 41-48% of men and 35-43% of women could be obese by 2030.
See the Health Survey for England 2010 trend tables.
Measuring obesity
The most common method of measuring obesity is calculating an individual’s Body Mass Index (BMI). This is calculated by dividing a person’s weight measurement (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in metres). See the BMI healthy weight calculator on the NHS Choices site.
In adults, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 means that person is considered to be overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above means that person is considered to be obese.
In children and adolescents, BMI varies with age and sex, so the BMI score for children and adolescents is related to the UK 1990 BMI growth reference charts in order to determine a child’s weight status.
BMI is the best way we have to measure the prevalence of obesity at the population level. No specialised equipment is needed and therefore it is easy to measure accurately and consistently across large populations. BMI is also widely used around the world, which enables comparisons between countries, regions and population sub-groups.
For most people, their BMI correlates well with their level of body fat. However, certain factors such as fitness and ethnic origin can sometimes alter the relationship between BMI and body fatness. So then other measurements such as waist circumference and skin fold thickness can also be collected to confirm an individual person’s weight status.
Find out more about measuring obesity on the National Obesity Observatory site.
Causes of obesity
Becoming overweight or obese is the result of eating more calories than needed and/or undertaking too little physical activity to match calorie intake. This energy imbalance is driven by a complex web of environmental, physiological and behavioural factors.
It is clear, however, that reducing overall energy intake is key to losing weight. Increasing physical activity can also be helpful alongside calorie reduction in achieving weight loss and sustaining a healthy body weight, as well as improving overall health.
Find out more about the causes of obesity on the National Obesity Observatory website.
Impact of obesity
Being obese or overweight brings significant risks at a range of different points throughout life. The health risks for adults are stark. We know that, compared with a healthy weight man, an obese man is: five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes three times more likely to develop cancer of the colon more than two and a half times more likely to develop high blood