Thursday, 14 June 2012

So are we getting fatter or not?


I suppose it couldn't go unexamined - I remain convinced that obesity is less of a problem than some would claim. And I also feel that the most up-to-date health statistics support my argument.

Let's start with this graph from "Adult anthropometric measures,overweight and obesity" published by the NHS:

As I've pointed out before there was a significant increase in levels of obesity but this appears to have come to an end (although evidence of any fall in adult obesity is limited). The commentary with this graph says:

The rate of increase in obesity prevalence has been slower in the second half of the period than the first half, and there are indications that the trend may have been flattening out in recent years. However, obesity in men and women in 2010 was at its highest level since 1993, and in men the 2010 level was also significantly higher than in the period between 2000 and 2005.

We could note also (which the commentary doesn't) that the levelling off in rates of obesity matches a methodological change - allowing for non-response. However, the essential point in all this remains that obesity levels are not rising but appear to be on a level trend. This may not be desirable in overall public health terms but it does not constitute and actual or looming crisis.

More importantly the problem does not seem - as the "let's scare everyone about sugar" brigade want us to believe - to be linked to overall diet. After all, if this were the case we would expect significant increases in levels of 'overweight'. However the same report says this:

Among men and women, the proportion who were overweight (BMI 25 to less than 30kg/m2) has changed very little between 1993 and 2010, fluctuating between 41% and 47% in men and between 31% and 34% in women.

 The point here is that the obesity problem is a matter of behaviour - people eating too much of the wrong sort of food - rather than a consequence of industrial food production methods.


No comments: