More than 7.6 million new cases of obesity-related diseases could be diagnosed in the United Kingdom in the next two decades if the current trend continues. This means that by 2035, nearly 40 million adults in the U.K. could be overweight or obese, with nearly 45 percent of all adults in the lowest income groups suffering the diseases.
The findings were reported in a study, “Tipping the scales: why preventing obesity makes economic sense,” published by the Cancer Research UK and UK Health Forum.
The study predicts that, if current trends were to continue, 76 percent of men and 69 percent of women could become overweight or obese by 2035 – and obesity is already on its way to becoming the most common weight category for both men and women.
Over the next 20 years, this means we might see 4.62 million new cases of type 2 diabetes, 1.63 million new cases of coronary heart disease, and 670,000 new cases of cancer.
In 2035 alone, about 440,000 of these new cases could be the end result of being overweight or obese – around 257,200 new cases of type 2 diabetes, 101,000 new cases of coronary heart disease, 43,600 new cases of stroke, and 38,500 new cases of cancer.
The study did not include other obesity-related conditions, like hypertension, liver disease, osteoarthritis or chronic kidney disease (CKD), which could also have a major impact on public health and resources.
“This study is a wake-up call for the government and shows a daunting future if no strong action is taken against the obesity epidemic,” said Modi Mwatsama, director of policy and global health at the UK Health Forum and a member of the Obesity Health Alliance, in a press release.
“We can’t expect industry to make changes on their own and people need help making healthier choices. Companies will have to be held accountable by government,” Mwatsama said. “The government must lead the way by creating a level playing field with independent, regulated targets for reducing the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food. Without government action, our children face a life of disease and early death.”
However, a small change could make a big difference. If 1 percent of the people would avoid putting on extra weight each year until 2035, this could stop around 77,000 new cases of disease, including 45,000 cases of type 2 diabetes in just one year.
To stop this obesity epidemic, the Obesity Health Alliance has called out the English government to introduce a strong childhood obesity strategy. The group of strategic decisions must comprise restriction to junk food advertisements on TV before 9 p.m., restrict online marketing to be aligned with broadcast regulations, and set targets for industry to reduce sugar and fats in food.
“These numbers are shocking. And it’s difficult to think of the impact this will have on public health and an already strained NHS. Without bold action, the next generation will face more disease and live shorter lives,” said Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK and a member of the Obesity Health Alliance.
“Kids are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food, and if we are to give our children the chance for better and healthier lives, it’s vital the government’s childhood obesity strategy restricts this kind of marketing,” she said.