Young Britons 'getting the message' on obesity, expert says

Obesity rates in young people in Britain appear to be going into reverse, a top gathering of health officials heard Monday, as the message on the risks of being overweight seems to be getting through.

Presenting research on obesity in Britain, Klim McPherson from Oxford University told the World Health Summit in Berlin that people aged 16 to 29 had generally tended to be less overweight or obese in recent years.

Among people aged 30 to 44, the trend was flat, he said, but in general "these people are getting control of their weight."

"The evidence is that the message is getting through to young people in the UK," McPherson told AFP.

He said younger people tended to exercise more and noted that high-profile campaigns on by celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver also had an impact.

Nevertheless, he stressed the data referred only to Britain and he had little evidence to suggest the trend was replicated in other countries.

Indeed, another expert, Shiriki Kumanyika from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, pointed to data from the United States showing how food portions had ballooned in the past 70 years.

" have increased by a factor of six, hamburgers by a factor of three and by a factor of three since 1950. Take two people to dinner when you go to the States, you'll have enough to eat," she quipped.

The result has been that the average American is 11 kilogrammes heavier in 2004 than in 1980, she said.

Studies have also shown that in most advanced countries, obesity is rising because people are eating more and exercising less , she said.

Experts stressed the importance of educating children about healthy eating, with Charlotte Cole from Sesame Workshop presenting data from studies showing how the popular Sesame Street characters could be used to powerful effect.

She said a group of children were given a choice between broccoli and sweets. Unsurprisingly, 78 percent chose the sweets.

But when the Elmo character from Sesame Street expressed a preference for broccoli, the proportion changed to 50-50, she said.

When Elmo campaigned for the sweets, nearly nine out of 10 of the children plumped for it, she noted.

As has tried to do its bit to improve children's health, some of the characters have changed their habits, she said.

"Cookie Monster is still obsessed with cookies, but he actually eats quite a lot of vegetables now," she said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Popular characters can help kids eat healthy foods too

Aug 21, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Superheroes and other popular kids' characters have been used to sell junk food, candy and other sugary treats to children for decades, but new research shows they also can be used to promote ...

'Sesame Street' back online after porn hacking

Oct 17, 2011

"Sesame Street" returned to cyberspace on Monday after its YouTube channel was targeted by unknown hackers who replaced Ernie, Abby, Big Bird and the Cookie Monster with hardcore porn.

Can branding improve school lunches?

Aug 28, 2012

A popular marketing ploy with junk foods and other indulgent table fare can be an equally effective tool for promoting healthier eating in school cafeterias.

Recommended for you

Weight stigma a daily experience for obese people

Nov 27, 2014

Overweight and obese people experience many more episodes of being stigmatised in their everyday lives than was realised, with most suffering almost daily negative treatment, a UNSW-led study shows.

Berberine compound may play role in treating obesity

Nov 27, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Weight-gain warnings are especially uncomfortable during holiday seasons with all the oversized and double helpings of calorie-rich pies, creamy dips and savory holiday stuffings. Nonetheless, ...

Expanding waistlines weigh heavy on Malaysia

Nov 27, 2014

Malaysians have a passionate love affair with their lip-smacking cuisine—rich curries, succulent fried chicken, buttery breads and creamy drinks—but it is increasingly an unhealthy relationship.

Obese children burdened by more than weight

Nov 24, 2014

High blood pressure and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are two emerging health problems related to the epidemic of childhood obesity. In a recent study, researchers at University of California, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.