BRITONS IGNORE HEALTHY ADVICE AND GET FATTER

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The Independent Online
BY CELIA HALL and

DAVID NICHOLSON-LORD

Adults in Britain just keep getting fatter despite health education campaigns, warnings and the best advice from the Department of Health.

The Government's own figures published today show that the Health of the Nation target to cut the overweight down to size is unlikely to be met.

This is also endorsed by the National Consumer Council, which says in a separate report out today that Britain will not achieve the healthy eating targets without a "dramatic change in consumption patterns".

It too finds that the British are getting fatter and that the fat content of the national diet has scarcely changed since the 1960s. We are still eating too much salt and sugar and not enough fibre.

The council blames the failure to turn the theory of healthy eating into reality on inconsistent, confusing and often obscure messages, both from the media and food companies. It also says that social security benefits may be too low to enable people to eat better food.

The Health Survey for England 1993, from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, also paints discouraging picture. The statisticians could find no evidence that we are taking any more exercise than in 1991 and smoking and drinking habits had not changed over the year. The survey among 16,500 adults, found that 22 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women said they had been drunk more than twice in the previous three months.

Compared with 1991-92, more people said their health was being affected by stress. Men in the highest social classes, professionals and managers (classes one and two) were the most likely to have suffered "a great deal of stress", as were women in social class two.

In 1993, 13 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women aged 16 to 64 were obese. This compares with 8 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women in 1986-87 and 12 per cent and 16 per cent in 1992. The Government target is to reduce obesity in the population to no more than 6 per cent for men and 8 per cent of women by 2005.

Using the standard body mass index - weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in metres - a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese and obesity is linked to heart disease. A BMI of 25-30 is a measurement of being overweight. In 1991, the mean BMI for men was 25.6 which rose to 25.9 in 1993. For women it was 25.4, rising to 25.7.

Baroness Cumberlege, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, said: "The picture is not all doom and gloom. For instance about three-quarters of adults say their health is good or very good."

9Health Survey for England 1993, HMSO; £38.

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