Forecasts that 50% of the UK could be obese by 2050 could underestimate the scale of the problem - researchers

Forecasts that 50% of the UK could be obese by 2050 could underestimate the scale of the problem - researchers

The National Obesity Forum has called on the UK government and food industry to take further action to combat obesity and warned that current efforts are failing to tackle the nation's growing waistlines.

In a report published today (14 January), the heath campaigners suggested that the UK is likely to surpass the "doomsday" scenario outlined in the 2007 Foresight Report, which suggested that around half the UK population will be obese by 2050.

"Without action across the board - from government, business, society and individuals - we might feel fortunate if only 50% of the population is obese and the annual cost is only GBP50bn (US$82.28bn) in 2050, if current trends continue," Professor David Haslam, chair of National Obesity Forum, wrote.

Haslam insisted that there is a "lot more" that can be done to tackle obesity, through "earlier intervention" and encouraging members of the public to take "sensible steps" themselves. However, he also threw his weight behind more controversial steps, arguing that the government, manufacturers and retailers should take a more proactive stance in the fight against obesity.

"There is a lot more we can be doing by way of earlier intervention and to encourage members of the public to take sensible steps to help themselves - but this goes hand in hand with government leadership and ensuring responsible food and drink manufacturing and retailing.

"We've seen hard-hitting campaigns against smoking and it's time to back up the work that's already being done with a similar approach for obesity."

The Forum highlighted a recent study that found "strong" point of sale "visual health prompts" resulted in healthier purchasing patterns. The study, conducted in one store, found that sales of fresh fruit rise by 20% and sales of frozen fruit increased by almost 30% over a 15-week period when life-size cut-outs of doctors and nurses urged consumers to "shop healthier".

Click here to view the full report on obesity rates and here to view the findings of the "shop healthier" study.