Britain, a nation of the underweight and obese

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Britain is becoming a nation of extremes, with a growing number of people either severely underweight or dangerously obese.

Britain is becoming a nation of extremes, with a growing number of people either severely underweight or dangerously obese. The number of people maintaining a healthy, normal weight is declining, while more are risking their health by either overeating or starving themselves.

Figures collected by the market analyst Datamonitor found that 600,000 men and 700,000 women in the UK (2 per cent of the adult population) are now classed as severely underweight. In the next five years, that number is projected to rise to more than 1.5 million. Experts believe a rise in the number of severely underweight people will be a consequence of the increased prevalence of eating disorders.

According to the Datamonitor research, 11.5 million men and women are overweight, while a further 5.9 million are obese. The number of overweight and obese people is expected to rise by 5 per cent by 2007.

But the report also revealed how, despite some people's obsession with the Atkins diet and others' addiction to junk food, we are still spending millions each year on ready meals and snacks. Last year, consumers spent £564m on ready meals, up from £440m in 1997. On average, people eat 4.5 times a day, with snacks accounting for more than 40 per cent of these occasions.

And while weight-related health problems such as type 2 diabetes are increasing, the market in vitamins, minerals and "healthy eating" products is also booming. Britain has become a nation of health food shoppers, it seems. Spending on food supplements rocketed by 250 per cent from 1997 to 2002, with the market now worth £1.2bn.

As the fat get fatter and the thin get thinner, the profits of drugs companies are becoming huge. The market for over-the-counter medicines has more than doubled in the past five years, from £1.3bn in 1997 to £3.8bn in 2002.

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