We’re losing the war with obesity – especially women and children

We may not be heading out to one of the many fast food restaurants as much as we used to, but our obesity rate is still rising. The battle of the bulge is still a losing one, according to several new reports released this November.

Obesity and snoring

Coupled with this fact science is showing that there is a direct link between disturbed sleep and weight gain in many individuals and snoring, sleep apnoea, and restless leg syndrome play a big part in these disturbed nights.

Very simply, having less than a full night’s rest could provoke hormonal changes in your body that are linked to obesity. Getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night is directly linked with increases in the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, decreases in insulin sensitivity which is a risk factor for diabetes, and decreases in the hormone leptin which is key for energy balance and food intake. The result is often late night snacking.

Results show that if someone stops snoring and has a better night’s sleep they not only feel more refreshed the next day but have a lower appetite.

The first report found that adult obesity rates have risen in the past three years, after an earlier period of relative stability. Furthermore, women have definitively become the heavier gender, with a 38% obesity rate versus 34% for men. About the only saving grace is that rates of teenage obesity have remained level, at 17% but this is still at a dangerous high pre-adulthood.

Figures are based on a survey of 5,000 people and required the participants, to undergo physical examinations. It allowed the researchers to accurately calculate the subjects’ obesity rate, as judged by their Body Mass Index.

The 2014-15 report produced for English Primary school children however is far more alarming showing one in ten children to be obese at the start of primary school in England last year, rising to one in five at end of that time.

The figures come from the government’s National Child Measurement Programme for England, and as standard procedure, all children at English primary schools are weighed in Reception and at the end of Year 6.

Although figures for Reception children have fallen slightly, the figures for obesity in Year 6 are on the rise. In addition it was found that children living in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to be obese as children in affluent areas. Campaigners said the figures should act as a wake-up call.

By measuring children’s weight and height and calculating their BMI (body mass index) they can be put into one of four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese.

Among children aged four and five in Reception year, 9.1% were classified as obese but in Year 6, 19.1% of children were obese – a big increase on the figures from eight years ago.

While one in four or five children was overweight or obese in Reception, one in three was either overweight or obese in Year 6.

The London boroughs of Southwark, Newham, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets topped the table for obesity among children aged 10 to 11 and the figures showed 28% of Year 6 pupils in Southwark were classed as obese and 44% were either obese or overweight. Wolverhampton had the largest number of obese 10 and 11-year-olds outside London and Waverley in Surrey had the smallest number of obese pupils – 5% in Reception and 9% in Year 6.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said the numbers were alarming.

“Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, and being overweight could cause 10 types of cancer. There’s an urgent need for the government to tackle obesity, starting with junk food marketing.”

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “We now have more children than ever before leaving primary school overweight or obese and this is simply unacceptable.”

Lifestyles must change for adults to set the example; diets must improve, less undisturbed sleep is vital, and much of this is in our control. Eat healthier, drink less, exercise more and do things immediately like stopping snoring.

John Redfern