Obesity is widely classified using ones BMI (body mass index). BMI is a measure of whether youre healthy for your height if someones BMI is above 30 that means you are obese while if it goes above 40 that means you are severely obese. Though, that being mentioned BMI is not always used to definitively diagnose obesity because those who are very muscular sometimes have a high BMI without excess fat (NHS website, n.d.), using an individuals BMI to strictly determined if they are obese can be problematic as BMI can be culturally determined to some degree, for example, Polynesians have a lower proportion of body than White Australians who have the same BMI, this may be due to the fact that in some cultures one’s weight reflects ideas about their desirability (Twigg, 2006). The World Health Organisation has termed obesity a global epidemic, it is now regarded as a non-communicable disease, one that has been closely linked with modern lifestyles and is making its way to the developing world (WHO, 2001). This essay is going to discuss why levels of obesity are rising while also explaining the circumstances to which might lead to someone being obese and what can or should the government do about it.
Firstly, obesity can cause a number of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, strokes, some types of cancer including breast cancer and chronic heart disease (Foresight, 2008) but obesity does not just affect you physically but also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems such as depression or low self-esteem. Obesity is a problem that is found in western societies, particularly found to be problematic in the US and UK. Obesity is increasingly becoming a problem in the UK with an estimated ?10 billion to be spent per year by 2050 with the possibility of more than half the UK population being obese. Foresights extrapolations suggest that we can expect a rise in about 40% of Britons being obese by 2025 which is not that shocking when statistics show obesity in the UK has more than doubled in the last 25 years and the UK government website stating that already nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) in England were already being classified as being overweight (Gov Online, 2017) .
Levels of obesity can be seen rising because of the ways in which society has changed in the last 5 decades. We have seen particular changes in things like work patterns, transport, food production and food sales. Obesity is heavily linked to these social developments and shifts in values, such as the changes in motorised transport for example. The technological revolution of the 20th century is said to have left an obesogenic environment that serves to expose the biological vulnerability of human beings by changing individual lifestyle choices and giving them easy options with many of these easy options being unhealthy (Foresight, 2008). We live in a less active society, the way we work has changed with there being less heavy manual jobs also there has been major changes and developments in transport meaning we now take cars or public transport just about anywhere. Things are now easy and accessible, everything is at our disposable, such as, the changes in the ways we eat there is now a certain level of ubiquity, food is everywhere and its fast which creates appeal for modern society as everything else is so fast past that the food industry is keeping up with it. The issue with cheap fast food is that it tends to be higher in calories but the easy access makes it convenient for the masses. Experts have stated that there are new insights in neurobiology show that how powerful the wide variety and appeal of modern food is with the way that they immediate mouth appeal with their high levels of sugar, salt and fat it creates increased palatability and ability to heighten sensory stimulation which according to experts leads us to reward ourselves with more junk (Foresight, 2008). This is a major problem that steams and feeds off of the nature of the food industry and its relationship with a capitalist society (Nestle, 2002). Food consumption is now relatively inelastic, there is only so much food that people in the West can be persuaded to eat. Corporations compete for what is a limited market. Profits lie in selling products that have inexpensive ingredients like sugar, salt and fat are cheap and highly attractive. Processed food and fast food are heavily reliant on these ingredients for strong flavour and mouth appeal.
Ideas around obesity can not just be limited to ones eating habits as throughout my research I have noticed that there are many other socioeconomic explanations about why one may obese. Age is one of them with weight increasing with age, though obesity is growing faster among the young and children (Social Trends, 2001). NHS reports show that in 2016, 26% of adults were classified as obese. This has increased from 15% in 1993 but has remained at a similar level since 2010 (between 25% and 27%) there have been major developments in the last two decades which can explain the increase in obesity, for example, changes in our eating habits such as increased accessibility to fast food and the ways in which we travel. The high number of adults being obese or overweight can be explained by levels of activity in particular age groups with activity levels decreasing in higher age groups. It is found that in an NHS 2016 report that below 60% of people 55 and over were meeting the aerobic guidelines. Another factor that is of high importance is how social class and obesity interlinks, with 26% of children in year 6 living in the most deprived areas being obese compared to 11% of those in the least deprived areas (NHS report, 2016), this could be explained by limited food choices amongst those in the poorest areas which promotes unhealthy lifestyles. Diabetes UK found that in the more deprived areas of Britain there are fewer outlets offering healthier foods and there tend to be more expensive, the risk of obesity in poorer areas can be explained by the limits of food choices, also ideas around food insecurity can help us understands the risks of obesity in more deprived areas of Britain as people in these areas may lack regular and dependable access to food. Many may not know when their next meal is coming from causing them to lean towards habits of overconsumption when it is available to them, this can become a cycle of over-consumption based on insecurity which can ultimately lead to obesity (Diabetes UK, 2010).
Obesity is the consequence of many factors from diet, levels of physical activity and ones surrounding environment. In order to tackle obesity, the government need to address the production and promotion of healthy diets on a national level. There needs to be more encouragement in changed behaviour, there is a need for clear restrictions on junk food marketing at children. In particular, junk food advertising is encouraging unhealthy food choices in children with them being constantly exposed to these advertising techniques on TV and online. There needs to be a shift in what is being advertised as in 2017 approximately ?140 million was being spent into adverting sugary drinks, crisps etc. while the was only spending ?5.2 million on its healthy eating campaign (Viner, 2017). The government needs to continue to encourage big name companies to significantly reduce sugar in their products much like The Soft Drinks Industry Levy also known as the sugar tax which was passed in April of 2017 it encouraged manufacturers to remove sugar from soft drinks or face a financial levy dependent on added content. There also needs to be limitations on where fast food chains or restaurants are located as many are located around schools it allows for easy access and endorses unhealthy eating habits amongst children when they are going to fast food chains like McDonald’s or KFC continuously after school, for example, instead of somewhere with healthier options. It has become easy to feed into unhealthy lifestyles as it is often the only option you are giving and the one you have the easiest access too.