Inactivity, not calorie consumption, behind rising obesity in the UK

Inactivity, not calorie consumption, behind rising obesity in the UK

New research finds UK’s rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity

The rise in obesity amongst the UK population has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity. Using government figures, this new study debunks the popular belief that the rise in obesity in recent decades is the result of increased calorie consumption in general, and sugar in particular.In The Fat Lie, Christopher Snowdon studies evidence from DEFRA, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the ONS and the British Heart Foundation, finding that all the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, fat and calories has been falling in the UK for decades.Despite public health campaigners portraying Britain’s obesity ‘epidemic’ as a result of increased availability of junk food, this conventional wisdom has no basis in fact. People have reduced the number of calories they consume, but have reduced the amount they move around even more.


Key statistics:

  • Since 2002, the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms. This has coincided with a decline in calorie consumption of over 4% and a decline in sugar consumption of nearly 7.5%.
  • Of food eaten outside the home, daily calories consumed have fallen from 310 in 2001/02 to 219 in 2012, a drop of nearly one hundred calories per day in ten years.
  • Data for eating out does not go back prior to 2000, but we do know that Britons were consuming more calories in the home in 1974 than Britons consumed in and outside the home combined in 2012.
  • Despite falling calorie intake, average body mass has increased by 5 kilograms since 1993. The crucial missing variable, often overlooked by campaigners, is energy expended.
  • Britons walk an average of 179 miles a year, down from 255 miles in 1976 and also cycle less; averaging 42 miles a year compared to 51 miles in 1976. 40% of people report spending no time even walking at work. The rise of office jobs and labour saving devices means people have fewer opportunities for physical activity, both at work and at home

Key findings:

  • ‘Big Food’ is not to blame

Food supply is a more inviting target for health campaigners than the sedentary lifestyles of the general public. A war on the food industry requires no stigmatisation of individuals and there are a readymade set of policies available which have been tried and tested in the campaigns against tobacco and alcohol.

  • Under-reporting of eating habits does not change conclusions

Although measuring the diet can be difficult because people tend to downplay the amount they eat, the question is not whether people under-report but the extent to which under-reporting has changed over time. It is extremely unlikely people have become so forgetful that the large and virtually uninterrupted fall in calorie consumption reported in successive studies can be explained by misreporting.

  • A one-size-fits-all response is not the solution

The fact that Britons, on average, are eating fewer calories does not mean that everybody is eating less, but we should be sceptical about those who claim that reducing calorie intake across the population will lead to less obesity. That clearly hasn’t happened in the past.


Commenting on the report, its author, Christopher Snowdon, said:“The root cause of Britain’s rising obesity levels has not been a rise in calorie intake but a rise in inactivity. With obesity now featuring so heavily in the media it is worrying that so few people know that our largely sedentary lifestyles, not our appetites, have been the driving force behind the UK’s expanding waistlines.

“Campaigners promoting a healthy lifestyle should refocus their efforts towards encouraging exercise and away from a war on food. Anti-market policies aimed at the whole population such as fat taxes will do nothing for the nation’s health.”


German Ministry of Food and Agriculture rejects the use of fat taxes

German Ministry of Food and Agriculture rejects the use of fat taxes

The spokesman of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture mentioned in an article in Die Welt that: “Using punitive food and drinks taxes which generate political control of consumption and patronize the consumer, should be rejected.”

Penalty taxes for supposedly unhealthy foods usually bring no change to the diets of individuals. The Ministry highlighted that: “In November 2012, the Danish Government abolished the fat tax which had been introduced a year earlier on the grounds that the tax did not change dietary behaviour.”


Zucker-Fett-Steuer soll Fettleibigkeit eindämmen

Das Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft wiegelt ab: “Eine politische Steuerung des Konsums und Bevormundung der Verbraucher durch Strafsteuern lehnt das Ministerium ab”, teilte ein Sprecher mit.

Strafsteuern für vermeintlich ungesunde Lebensmittel änderten in der Regel nichts am Ernährungsverhalten der Menschen: “So hat beispielsweise die dänische Regierung im November 2012 ihre ein Jahr zuvor eingeführte Fettsteuer wieder abgeschafft, mit der Begründung, die Steuer habe das Ernährungsverhalten nicht verändert.”


Please see the article here:

Labour says no to a tax on high-sugar food and drink

Luciana Berger

Shadow health minister Luciana Berger this week ruled out the possibility of a Labour government imposing additional taxes on
fizzy drinks and other high-sugar products.

In an exclusive interview with The Grocer, Berger said the party had decided against backing a sugar tax because it would increase food prices and be seen to punish cash-strapped consumers.

“We have never said we are in favour of a sugar tax and I can categorically say that isn’t the case,” said Berger, who this week hosted an obesity debate in Westminster involving MPs, NHS bosses, NGOs and the food industry.

Campaign group Action on Sugar and the National Obesity Forum have recently supported the idea of taxing products high in sugar. But Berger, whose party is
coming towards the end of a review of its public health policy, cautioned against the approach.

“We should not be looking at any food ingredient in isolation,” she said. “Obviously, we have to do something to tackle the obesity crisis and one of the things that we have to look at is sugar. But there is no specific sugar policy. What we are suggesting is limits on the amount of sugar, salt and fat in food and we will be bringing these forward before the next party conference.”

Berger said Labour was also looking at regulation which could stop fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s being located in close proximity to schools and added that “stores like WHSmith which sell a huge amount of sweet confectionery were also “high on our radar”.

The shadow minister, who has been behind an avalanche of parliamentary questions attacking the closeness of the DH to food companies, would not go as far as confirming Labour planned to scrap the Responsibility Deal but said: “It clearly isn’t working.”

Seeder: Estonia not ready for sugar tax

Seeder: Estonia not ready for sugar tax

Helir-Valdor Seeder, Minister of Agriculture is of the opinion that Estonian society is not ready to support a separate tax on excessively salty, sweet or fatty food products.

People’s awareness should be raised instead, as the latest survey on energy drinks published by Eesti Paevaleht indicates that incorrect conceptions of such drinks are spreading, especially among young people.

Seeder has previously presented the idea of imposing an extra tax on products that contain excessive amounts of sugar or salt in the media, but he now acknowledges that quite a few countries that have tested the tax – including Finland and Denmark – have since revoked it.

“There are quite a few countries that have acted inconsistently in terms of additional taxation, which shows that such taxes aren’t clearly justified and that proper solutions haven’t been found” Seeder said. He clarifies that earnings are insufficient and that the tax would change the prices of all products.

The minister says that promoting healthy dietary habits and exercise as a lifestyle should be the main government focus instead.


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