Bottomley acts on obesity

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

OVERWEIGHT people are to be targeted by Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, in an attempt to improve the health of the nation.

Mrs Bottomley's sights are set on young people who are growing fat on fast food, with the threat of earlier heart disease and other disorders.

The less-than-slim in the Government, such as Nicholas Soames, the Minister for Food, may be embarrassed by an attempt to tighten the nation's waistline.

However, Mrs Bottomley is determined to do something about the British bulge.

Her department's statistics have shown that in spite of the publicity given to slimming fads and eating disorders such as bulimia in recent years, the proportion of fat people has gone up.

The White Paper set out to reduce obesity to 6 per cent for men and 8 per cent for women by 2005. Latest figures show that the proportion of obese men has nearly doubled from 8 per cent to 13 per cent since 1986, while obesity in women has risen from 12 per cent to 15 per cent of the population.

Other tubbies in the Government include John Bowis, one of her health ministers, and Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who even when he was Secretary of State for Health resisted all pressure to slim by forsaking beer.

It is quite likely that they will keep a low profile when Mrs Bottomley publicly points to the need to eat wisely when she produces a progress report on Monday on the first year of the Government's White Paper, Health of the Nation, which set out targets for health promotion and disease prevention.

The White Paper said that obesity increased the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke through its association with an increased prevalence of raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the blood.

Obesity resulted from 'dietary energy intake chronically in excess of energy expenditure' and was therefore related to diet and exercise. It defined obesity as a body mass index of 30-plus (weight in kilograms divided by height in metres, squared).