8th August 2019
News headlines recently have presented us with some quite shocking facts about obesity and our sugar habits in the UK.
Obesity has, quite frankly, become an epidemic – having more negative health consequences than smoking or drinking alcohol. It also affects more people as sugary drinks, snacks and fast-food are so readily available, affordable and often promoted by using misleading facts and claims.
Two thirds of adults in the UK are either overweight or obese. The impact this has on the already stretched NHS is vast, with four times as many admissions with a primary / secondary diagnosis of obesity in 2018 compared with ten years ago. The NHS spends £8.8billion on treating type 2 diabetes (with new diagnoses on an upward rise) and last year funded weight-loss surgery for over 6,500 patients.
Health Issues Related to Obesity
Excess weight can put you at significant increased risk of developing more serious conditions or suffering from other health issues, including:
There have been calls to start treating sugar laden foods in the same way that we treat cigarettes – suggesting that we need to educate consumers more about the impact of eating too much sugar.
Sugary drinks and snacks have already started to be taxed, but there are now discussions around banning advertising and changing packaging to make them less appealing, particularly to children. The average teenager consumes 3 times the recommended sugar intake and it is vital to curb unhealthy relationships with food at a younger age to stop overweight children becoming obese adults.
Many chocolates or sugary treats aimed at children use popular cartoon characters such as Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol on their packaging – this could be banned, along with TV advertising within the watershed. It has been suggested that plain packaging could assist harassed parents to resist the pester power of children.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer has been asked to review these calls for action and we expect to hear more in the coming months.
The Effect on our NHS
It goes without saying that the increase in weight-related health problems puts additional, avoidable strain on our recourses. With budget cuts, staff shortages and red tape do we really need another drain on our precious NHS.
Unfortunately when GP surgeries or hospitals are over-stretched, mistakes and errors are inevitable and this is where negligence occurs. Delayed treatment or delayed diagnosis can have disastrous consequences and human error can occur when doctors, nurses or specialists are under too much pressure or time restraints.
We hope that the suggested steps to reduce the UKs unhealthy sugar habit will help to relieve the pressure on our health service and that in time will see admissions due to obesity start to drop. But until then we must be prepared for the risk that our health care will suffer.
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