After the UK government published its new obesity strategy, a leading think tank has suggested drastic measures to reduce childhood obesity. Such nanny state nonsense only hits personal freedom and the pockets of the poor.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is a left-leaning think tank that has a track record of supporting state intervention in our lives. Moreover, the IPPR's new report, The Whole Society Approach: Making A Giant Leap On Childhood Health, has been bankrolled by three charities Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation that have also been keen supporters of the government micromanaging our lives and suppressing our 'bad habits.'
Theres a formula to such reports. First, overstate the problem. Second, exaggerate the benefits of solving the problem. Third, claim that the proposed solution is much more effective than it really is, while ignoring the potential downsides.
Despite the best efforts of the authors, it is hard to get away from the fact that childhood obesity has not become the 'time bomb' many claimed it would be in the past. In fact, childhood obesity levels have long since levelled off. Still, it is claimed that this is at an alarmingly high level.
The authors claim: While fewer than two per cent of children had obesity in the mid-1980s the most recent evidence shows that one in 10 children now have obesity by the time they begin primary school. For children entering secondary school, 22 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls have obesity. This is entirely an artefact of the bizarre way that the UK measures childhood obesity.
Essentially, a child whose body mass index (BMI) would have put them in the top five percent of children in 1990 is regarded as 'obese.' Yet, using research by Tim Cole and colleagues, as the International Obesity Federation does, suggests a sensible cut-off point for 'obesity' would be for the top two percent, not the top five percent. Why did the UK go for that five percent cut-off? Because it decided to simply copy America. But this makes no sense - America's kids have long been fatter than British kids, hence more of them were in the 'obese' category. The result is to inflate the UK's obesity figures and give a misleading sense of the problem.
One odd effect shows how much this overstates obesity. When moving from the childhood definition of obesity to the adult definition, the same group of young people suddenly has a marked drop in obesity rates. As Christopher Snowdon has pointed out: Since 2001, every year (except one) shows rates of obesity for 11 to 15 year olds at between 18 and 25 per cent while the rates for 16-24 year olds are between 10 and 13 per cent. The current batch of 16-24 year olds have an obesity rate of 11 per cent, but when they were in school a few years ago they had an obesity rate of around 20 per cent. In short, childhood obesity is being overstated.
Second, the costs to society seem wildly exaggerated by the report. New IPPR modelling estimates that obesity among the current cohort of children, over the course of their lifetime could cost the NHS 74 billion and wider society 405 billion, through lost productivity and reduced workforce participation. Those sound like big, scary numbers and it is not exactly clear how they were arrived at.
But we do know that when someone doesn't earn as much money as they might otherwise, that is not a cost to society - it is ultimately a cost to the individual. Moreover, this modelled group of children has an age range of 14 years - that's a lot of people, so no wonder that their healthcare costs are so big over their whole lives. And it misses another point: healthy people live longer and, on average, end up costing the government more than unhealthy people, because they claim pensions, social care, free transport and more for longer, while their healthcare costs are just postponed, not reduced.
The authors claim that halving childhood obesity could save society 200 billion in the long term, of which just over 37 billion would be in healthcare savings. Even that seems a stretch but, to put that into perspective, the NHS budget for England alone for 2020/21 will be 129.9 billion - that is, for one year.
But the real stinker is the proposed solution: a tax on 'non-essential' foods. The authors point to Hungary and Mexico as examples of countries that have reduced consumption of the 'wrong' foods by imposing taxes. But how do we figure out what is a 'non-essential' food? One way might be to tax foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). Yet it's not clear that these foods are 'non-essential' they include things like cheese, olive oil and honey, which most people would argue are good things to eat.
It also fails to take account of the way people change their behaviour to avoid taxes, from buying cheaper alternatives to buying in bulk. Even if people did change their eating habits, how many actual calories would they avoid? Would they simply consume more food that isn't taxed? Overall, such a tax would make very little difference to people's waistlines.
What it would do, as illustrated by the sugary drinks tax already introduced, is reduce our ability to eat what we want. The sugary drinks tax forced most manufacturers to 'reformulate' their drinks. So we don't have a choice for most drinks between 'diet' and 'full-sugar', just variations on how much artificial sweetener we get. Those who preferred the original version have complained loudly that the choice has been taken away from everyone, regardless of whether they are obese or not.
IPPR is suggesting that anyone who wants to consume a brand of food deemed 'non-essential' should either pay more or do without. This won't make any difference to people with plenty of money. This will hurt poorer people. An organisation that describes itself as the UK's leading progressive think tank is demanding a regressive tax that hits poor people hardest! What a brilliant achievement! Let's hope this report is ignored.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
- The kids aren't all right: COVID-19-fueled stress eating, inequities, lack of fitness expected to boost obesity, experts say - USA TODAY - October 18th, 2020
- Hispanics live longer than most Americans, but will the US obesity epidemic change things? - The Conversation US - October 18th, 2020
- Obesity in children on the rise due to remote learning, study shows - WWLTV.com - October 18th, 2020
- How the pandemic is boosting the risk of childhood obesity WHYY - WHYY - October 18th, 2020
- Risk of severe Covid-19 high for obese people, regardless of other factors - Health24 - October 18th, 2020
- The COVID-19 pandemic emphasizes the need to manage patient obesity - Medical Economics - October 18th, 2020
- Learn About the Advice From FIGO on Obesity | Figo - International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics - October 18th, 2020
- Bariatric Surgery Associated with 3-Year Increase in Life Expectancy for Obese Patients - Endocrinology Network - October 18th, 2020
- funded study links adolescent brain differences to increased waist circumference - National Institutes of Health - October 18th, 2020
- National Pet Obesity Awareness Day puts spotlight on keeping furry friends at a healthy weight - KING5.com - October 18th, 2020
- Studies Begin to Untangle Obesitys Role in Covid-19 - The New York Times - September 29th, 2020
- Covid-19 has killed more people than obesity in the UK this year - Full Fact - September 29th, 2020
- Relation found between AMI and obesity < Hospital < - KBR - Korea Biomedical Review - September 29th, 2020
- Long-term impact of obesity on patient-reported outcomes and patient satisfaction after lumbar spine surgery: an observational study. - Physician's... - September 29th, 2020
- Recovered Covid patients just cant stop eating - The New Indian Express - September 29th, 2020
- Wellness Expert James Hill Says Healthy Is More Than Weight Loss - Healthline - September 29th, 2020
- Weight Gain Linked to Later Life Incident VTE - MD Magazine - September 29th, 2020
- 18 Percent Of Americans Don't Have Enough To Eat, Which Makes Them...Obese? - Science 2.0 - September 29th, 2020
- Food insecurity in the US increasingly linked to obesity - Medical News Today - September 28th, 2020
- U.S. Adult Obesity Rate Hits Highest Rate Ever Recorded - Club Industry - September 28th, 2020
- Mission: Readiness ties obesity to national security - News - Times Record - September 28th, 2020
- The Intersection Of Obesity, COVID-19, Social Justice And Mental Health - Club Industry - September 28th, 2020
- Experience of Polish Patients with Obesity in Contacts with Medical Pr | PPA - Dove Medical Press - September 28th, 2020
- Cleveland Clinic Study Identifies Weight-Loss Threshold for Cardiovascular and Survival Benefits in Patients with Obesity and Diabetes - Health... - September 28th, 2020
- Coronavirus pandemic could impact cancer rates and care in the future - WKTV - September 28th, 2020
- An obese heart is a silent risk - The Hippocratic Post - September 28th, 2020
- Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Heart Failure: Is There a Connection? - Michigan Medicine - September 28th, 2020
- Should India adopt NOVA classification of food? - The Sunday Guardian - September 28th, 2020
- Obesity and the Bitter Pill of Truth - Medscape - September 23rd, 2020
- Obesity and COVID-19: A renewed call to address a growing crisis - World Bank Group - September 23rd, 2020
- Negative pressure wound therapy does not cut infection risk in obese women after cesarean delivery - National Institutes of Health - September 23rd, 2020
- Obesity linked to hospitalisation and ICUs for Covid-19 patients - The Irish Times - September 23rd, 2020
- New Research Shows Potential Utility of Growth Standards to Monitor Healthy Weight in Puppies and May Help Identify Puppies at Risk for Obesity -... - September 23rd, 2020
- SCOTUS, Sallys economic effects and obesity - AL.com - September 23rd, 2020
- Obesity can cause and be consequence of poor sleep - Westside Eagle Observer - September 23rd, 2020
- Health Education Week 2020: Opportunities and Advancements in Obesity Medicine - Medical Economics - September 23rd, 2020
- COVID-19 Recovery Analysis: Assisted Reproductive Technology Market | Increase in Rate of Infertility and Obesity-Related Cases to Boost the Market... - September 23rd, 2020
- Stephanie Yeboah: 'Obesity is a disgusting word... it's just used to scare people' - Telegraph.co.uk - September 23rd, 2020
- Diabetes, Obesity and other five risk factors that can lead to heart failure - India TV News - September 23rd, 2020
- Research finds out a new phenomenon of obesity with the multiple burden of malnutrition in India - Eastern Eye - September 23rd, 2020
- WHO launches guide to boost children's health and well-being in Russian-speaking countries - Russian Federation - ReliefWeb - September 23rd, 2020
- For teens with severe obesity, bariatric surgery works, but is rarely used. Experts say that needs to change - The Detroit News - September 20th, 2020
- Obesity associated with a higher risk for dementia, new study finds - National Institute on Aging - September 20th, 2020
- Your Health First: Top underlying health conditions in North Dakota? Obesity and Type 2 diabetes - KX NEWS - September 20th, 2020
- US adult obesity at highest level ever recorded; Arkansas and Oklahoma rank in top five - 5newsonline.com - September 20th, 2020
- Coronavirus science | Week in review: 'Long Covid', obesity, and will the virus become seasonal? - Health24 - September 20th, 2020
- Mediterranean diet helps offset the health impacts of obesity - Earth.com - September 20th, 2020
- Obese people 70% more at risk of severe COVID-19: Assocham - The Indian Express - September 20th, 2020
- Could interaction between Covid-19 and pre-existing bacteria explain severity in the obese? - Health24 - September 20th, 2020
- Despicable to blame Government for Covid-19 death rate given obesity, says Tory peer - Evening Standard - September 20th, 2020
- If a heavyweight is morbidly obese why is he also fit to box? - Boxing News Online - September 20th, 2020
- Cancer Is on the Rise Among Young People - Discover Magazine - September 20th, 2020
- Letters to the Editor: Sept. 20 - Canon City Daily Record - September 20th, 2020
- Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away - Kiowa County Press - September 20th, 2020
- Why COVID-19 is more deadly in people with obesityeven if they're young - Science Magazine - September 8th, 2020
- Higher obesity rates appear to contribute to higher bankruptcy rates in the United States - PsyPost - September 8th, 2020
- Worldwide Non-Invasive Fat Reduction Industry to 2025 - Increasing Prevalence of Obesity Presents Opportunities - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business... - September 8th, 2020
- New evidence testosterone therapy is effective obesity treatment in men - New Atlas - September 8th, 2020
- Obesity is tied to greater risk of complications from COVID-19 - WWLTV.com - September 8th, 2020
- Pregnancy, Obesity and Nutrition Initiative (PONI): FIGO releases new Supplement - International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics - September 7th, 2020
- High Pleural Pressure Prevents Alveolar Overdistension and Hemodynamic Collapse in ARDS with Class III Obesity. - Physician's Weekly - September 7th, 2020
- Global Intragastric Balloon Market (2019 to 2028) - Rise in Government Initiatives Regarding Obesity Presents Opportunities - ResearchAndMarkets.com -... - September 7th, 2020
- Drugs That Fight Diabetes and Obesity May Treat Covid-19 - Bloomberg - September 6th, 2020
- COVID-19 Patients With Obesity Have Higher Viral Load, for Longer - Medscape - September 6th, 2020
- Even half a glass of alcohol increases risk of obesity, study shows - Study Finds - September 6th, 2020
- America's Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine - POZ - September 6th, 2020
- 'Fat-Shaming' Drops in US but UK Public Still Apportion Blame - Medscape - September 6th, 2020
- Calls for tougher regulation to fight obesity - Newsroom - September 6th, 2020
- Consumption of alcohol even in small amounts can result in obesity and metabolic syndrome, suggests study - Firstpost - September 6th, 2020
- World's richest countries grappling with children's reading and math skills, mental well-being and obesity - UNICEF - September 6th, 2020
- Definition of Chronic disease - MedicineNet - August 31st, 2020
- America's Move to Raise A Healthier Generation of Kids ... - August 31st, 2020
- Controlled obesity status: a rarely used concept, but with particular importance in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond - DocWire News - August 31st, 2020
- Groningen University Hospital to investigate role of obesity in patients with COVID-19 - Innovation Origins - August 31st, 2020
- Obesity and COVID-19: How weight tips the scales to severe COVID-19 illness - The Stanford Daily - August 31st, 2020
- Study finds obese people at higher risk of COVID-19 complications - Times of India - August 31st, 2020
- Childhood obesity could increase the risk of multiple sclerosis in later life - The Conversation UK - August 31st, 2020
- Peter Rhodes on an Indian romance, the risks of obesity and standing up for nice things - expressandstar.com - August 31st, 2020
- Joint Pain Injections Market: Investments by key players is driving the global market - BioSpace - August 31st, 2020
- Why your doctor will not talk to you about obesity - The Standard - August 31st, 2020