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Obesity is now a disease of poverty, health chief claims

Obesity is now a disease of the poor, a public health chief said today.

William Roberts, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, called the change ‘scary’.

“There’s a really seismic change that we haven’t seen before,” he told a public health conference.

‘We are at a point in history where obesity is now a sign of poverty, not a sign of wealth.

‘For years, obesity came from having money and being able to eat.

‘Now obesity is a sign of poverty.

‘We might want to think about what that means and why that is the case. It’s terrifying to think about.”

Mr Roberts was speaking at an event organized by the Local Government Association.

In 2022, a report warned that 36.8 percent of people in England’s most deprived areas were obese.

By comparison, this figure was just over half (19.2 percent) among the richest.

Experts have attributed the disparity in part to the rising costs of healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and the abundance of junk food takeout options in poorer neighborhoods.

Overall, two-thirds of all British adults are now fat, compared to just half in the mid-1990s.

Of these, a quarter are overweight.

The obesity crisis is estimated to cost the country almost £100 billion a year.

This colossal figure includes both the health damage to the NHS and the secondary economic impacts, such as lost income as people take time off work due to illness and premature deaths.

Experts have called on ministers to tackle the crisis and demand action on both junk and ultra-processed foods with the same aggression the government has devoted to smoking.

Ministers hope a wave of new drugs to tackle obesity, such as the Ozempic weight-loss jab, will help turn the tide and get more Britons back to work.

Earlier this year it floated plans to roll out breakthrough drugs to help cut the country’s bloated benefits bill.

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX – AND WHAT IT MEANS

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.

Standard formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Dimensions:

  • Under 18.5: Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: Overweight
  • 30 – 39.9: Obese
  • 40+: Morbid obesity