Analysis predicts 21 million adults will be obese by 2040

Analysis from Cancer Research UK has predicted that, if trends continue as they are, by 2040 21 million adults will be obese. This equates to nearly 4 in 10 of us or 36% of the population.  The data also predicts that by 2040 42 million people will be overweight or obese, which is 7 in 10 of us, or 71% of the population. It is predicted that more people in the UK will be obese than are a healthy weight by 2040 and may come as early as the late 2020s in England alone.

This data was released last week and coincided with the news that the government had put a years delay on two initiatives to help the population reduce its consumption of junk food. 

The first initiative, to put restrictions on junk food advertising, was due to come into force in late 2022. It meant a ban on advertising foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) between the hours of 5.30 am and 9 pm on TV and also restrictions on online advertising. Evidence shows that advertising does have an impact on diet and does increase the amount of calories consumed. Research showed that in 2019 children had 2.9 billion exposures to TV advertising and 11 millions exposures to online advertising. The ban was predicted to remove 7.2 billion calories from children’s diet each year and therefore reduce rates of obesity. 

The second initiative to be delayed is restrictions on multi-buy deals of HFSS foods, such as ‘buy one get one free’, in shops and free refills on soft drinks when eating out.  However, restrictions on  where HFSS products are placed in shops will still go ahead in October 2022 as planned. This means these unhealthy foods will not be allowed to be placed in key areas such as shop entrances, aisle ends and near checkouts, with the aim of reducing our exposure to and limiting impulse buys of these foods.

Since last month restaurants, and other food outlets who employ more than 250 people, have put calorie information on their menus as a way to help us make healthier choices when we are eating out.

While some parts of the government’s obesity strategy are staying in place there is disappointment that some of the initiatives have been delayed. The latest predictions from Cancer Research UK highlight the importance of urgent action to help the population make healthier choices and reverse the rise in obesity.

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