Feature: Campaigners against obesity take note as UK women deemed fattest in Europe

5 December 2011

Campaigns to ward off obesity in the UK have taken centre stage over recent years as more and more people are being medically classed as a dangerous weight. Latest figures have shown that Britain is the fattest nation in Europe - something that has caused experts to re-evaluate the methods of encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

As Christmas approaches, the seasonal woes about healthy eating and dieting are at the forefront of some people's minds. Patients who are considering weight loss surgery may be feeling the strain of festive temptations, but specialist studies have shown how to maintain a healthy and nutritious balance of food and exercise.

According to statistics from patient.co.uk, around one in four men and women in the UK have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, which classes them as obese. Furthermore, on average two in 100 adults are morbidly obese with a BMI of 40 or more.

A representative from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, one of the profession's largest membership organisations, has suggested that keeping weight at a healthy level during Christmastime can be done through careful planning and willpower.

Sammy Margo, chartered physiotherapist, said: "You already have your New Year's resolutions lined up so why not make an effort to start your New Year's resolutions already. For example, if your New Year's resolution is to get fit, why don't you already start getting your 30 minutes of walking in per day before Christmas has arrived?"

She added that walking, cycling and swimming are good cardiovascular activities to do that won't overload joints.

A study by researchers at the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology found that exercise helps people to eat a healthy diet and that this is key to combating obesity.

Miguel Alonso Alonso, a researcher at Harvard University who has published a bibliographical compilation on the subject, which was originally made public in the journal Obesity Reviews, said: "Understanding the interaction between exercise and a healthy diet could improve preventative and therapeutic measures against obesity by strengthening current approaches and treatments."

The study looked at the effect increased body movement has on food choices and found that a healthy diet and the right amount of physical exercise often come hand in hand and that people who are more active are likely to choose more nutritious meals.

With the constant stream of advice and campaigns highlighting healthy eating and exercise, how has Britain become so big?

Patient.co.uk reports that since 1980, the number of obese adults in the UK has nearly tripled. This has been called the obesity epidemic. Additionally, data published on Eurostat shows this has reached unprecedented proportions, as Britons are now categorised as the most overweight people in the EU.

Figures from Europe show that out of 19 countries, nearly a quarter of all UK women are classed as obese - the largest proportion found in the study.

Just over 22 per cent of UK men are classed as obese, coming second only to Malta.

After the UK, the countries with the highest levels of female obesity are Malta, with 21.1 per cent of all females clinically overweight and Latvia, where 20.9 per cent of people have an BMI of 30 or above.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launched a campaign to crack down on these figures and suggested that as a nation, Brits need to eat five billion fewer calories a day.

According to Miguel Alonso Alonso, part of the study at the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, physical exercise seems to encourage a healthy diet and when exercise is added to a weight-loss diet, treatment of obesity is more successful and the diet is adhered to in the long run.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Alonso-Alonso, Miguel., et al., "The neurocognitive connection between physical activity and eating behavior", Obesity Reviews October 2011.


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