Focus on fitness not fatness – Why food taxes are missing the point

Focus on fitness not fatness – Why food taxes are missing the point

Researcher at the University of Essex, children’s fitness expert Dr. Gavin Sandercock writes in BBC news that we have been looking at obesity the wrong way, leaving the harm generated by physical inactivity aside.


Dr. Sandercock points out that reports alerting on an “obesity time-bomb” are multiplying. But according to him, the extent of the problem is often exaggerated. Figures from the National Child Measurement Programme for 2010-2011 estimate that 9% of 5 to 6-year-olds are obese, that is, Dr. Sandercock says, 2.7 children out of 30 in a class. It was 1.5 in 1990. He underlines that an “epidemic” is a term corresponding to the increase of one child per class in 20 years and suggests that childhood obesity are somewhat plateauing (25 for 2-5-years-olds boys, 23% for girls between 2003 and 2013).


Furthermore, Dr. Sandercock says that public health keeps being focused on food and obesity, and overlooks physical activity. As dietary guidelines vary with time, some propose to tax “unhealthy foods” as a way to tackle obesity. He underlines that we are missing the point by putting the focus on taxes. Healthy eating cannot be the only answer to obesity: physical activity is the key feature to keep in mind.


Those observations are corroborated by studies made in Australia in 2011, by the Snowdon report “The Fat Lie” in 2014, and most recently by Ekelund et al. 2015.


Quoting the British Heart Foundation 2015 figures, Dr. Sandercock shows that none of 11-15 year-old girls do enough exercise, and only 7% for boys. He calls for 60 minutes of exercise for children and young people each day and praises iniatiatives on physical activity launched around UK. To conclude, he points out that physical activity will not solve all obesity issues, but will benefit to all.


The full article can be read here

Irish researchers share insights on obesity and NCDs

Irish researchers share insights on obesity and NCDs

The Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland is holding its inaugural meeting this week – to be discussed are a range of obesity-related topics including obesity management, obesity and pregnancy and socio-economic factors, as reported by the Irish Times.

In terms of socio-economic imbalance research from the Economic and Social Research Institute found that ‘working class’ girls were almost 40% more likely to be overweight than their peers in ‘professional’ households.

On physical activity, leading physiotherapist Dr. Colin Dunlevy berated “bootcamp” reality shows for making losing weight through exercise look too hard; with beginning a regime a key barrier for overweight individuals to lose weight.

Professor Martin Caraher (City University London) argued that the solutions to obesity are not to be found in health policy alone – joined up policy linking health, finance, agriculture and planning all play a role. Inequality is a key driver of obesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases.

You can read the full article by following this link.

European Union public opinion on policy measures to address childhood overweight and obesity

The study gathered data to examine whether differences in public opinion about policy options to fight the obesity problem exist among EU countries, and shows that there was little support for imposing taxes on unhealthy food. Some key insights from the study:

  • “Our results suggest strong consistency among EU countries in support for two policies: providing information to parents and more physical activity in schools. For improving children’s diets, our data show widespread support for providing parents with information, education programs in schools, and restrictions on advertising. For reducing childhood obesity, more physical activity in schools received the most support followed by education and advertising restrictions. There was very little support for imposing taxes on unhealthy food”.
  • In the survey, tax increases were overwhelmingly rejected, receiving only 2.8 per cent support. Sixteen countries had 2 per cent or less support for this measure.

You can find the whole paper here.

Sugar-sweetened beverage intake and overweight in children from a Mediterranean country

The study assessed the association between sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and being overweight in children from a Mediterranean country (Portugal). Some key insights from the study:

  • “We did not find any association between overweight and SSB consumption in any consumption group […]“
  • “The intake of SSB was not associated with increased risk of overweight […]“.

You can find the whole paper here.