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

October 22, 2012

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.

Explore further: Popular characters can help kids eat healthy foods too

Related Stories

Popular characters can help kids eat healthy foods too

August 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 healthier eating ...

Obesity a concern? Don't use sweets to reward children's behaviour, reduce screen time

October 2, 2012
Cutting screen time and not rewarding children's good behaviour with sweets are among the steps parents could take to reduce overweight and obesity in children before they start school, according to research by the University ...

Can branding improve school lunches?

August 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

Shaming overweight kids only makes things worse

November 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Overweight kids who are shamed or stigmatized are more likely to binge eat or isolate themselves than to make positive changes such as losing weight, a leading pediatricians' group says.

Link between obesity and cancer is not widely recognized

November 17, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has shown that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand the connection between weight issues and cancer. Obesity is associated with thirteen types ...

Reversing negative effects of maternal obesity

November 8, 2017
A drug that increases energy metabolism may lead to a new approach to prevent obesity in children born to overweight mothers, UNSW Sydney researchers have found.

Serving water with school lunches could prevent child, adult obesity: study

November 7, 2017
Encouraging children to drink plain water with their school lunches could prevent more than half a million youths in the U.S. from becoming overweight or obese, and trim the medical costs and indirect societal costs associated ...

Why do some obese people have 'healthier' fat tissue than others?

November 1, 2017
One little understood paradox in the study of obesity is that overweight people who break down fat at a high rate are less healthy than peers who store their fat more effectively.

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

0 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.