Obesity should be reclassified as a disease and no longer be considered a lifestyle choice, doctors have said.
The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said it was necessary to make the change if the issue is going to be tackled by healthcare professionals.
They called on the government to recognise those who are very overweight as suffering from a disease so they can receive specialist care.
Obesity is thought to affect around one in every four adults in the UK, and roughly one in five children aged 10 to 11.
Outlining plans to reclassify obesity as a disease, RCP president Professor Andrew Goddard said: “It is important to the health of the nation that we remove the stigma associated with obesity.
“It is not a lifestyle choice caused by individual greed, but a disease caused by health inequalities, genetic influences and social factors.”
The RCP said it wants to see obesity recognised as an ongoing chronic disease to allow the creation of formal policies to improve care both in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, and so that significant and far-reaching preventative measures can be put in place.
“It is governments, not individuals, which can have an impact on the food environment through regulation and taxation, and by controlling availability and affordability,” Prof Goddard added.
“Governments can also promote physical activity by ensuring that facilities are available to local communities, and through legislation and public health initiatives.”
The call comes a day after Public Health England (PHE) found 10-year-old children have on average already consumed more sugar than the maximum total amount recommended for an 18-year-old.
The study found children are consuming an average of 52.2 grams a day, based on consumption from the age of two – the equivalent of 13 cubes a day, and eight more than the recommended level.
In May, PHE officials published detail on progress in the first year of its sugar reduction programme, which showed the food industry failed to meet the target of cutting 5 per cent of sugar from popular foods by August 2017.
PHE found that for retailers’ own brand and manufacturer branded products there was only a 2 per cent reduction in total sugar per 100g.
It is due to publish an update later this year.
Agencies contributed to this report
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