Obesity – how prejudiced is the National Health Service?

Our Research Dietitian, Dr Michelle Harvie, has shared with us her thoughts on a recent TV programme ‘Obesity – how prejudiced is the NHS?’ . The programme has sparked a lot of debate about how we can best tackle the alarming rates of obesity in the UK . Being overweight or obese comes with a big health and social cost to the individual and the NHS.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing breast cancer as well as 10 other cancers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and other debilitating health conditions , 1 in 4 adults in the UK are obese. This number is steadily increasing along with the cost of treating obesity related conditions. In 2016 the NHS spent six billion pounds treating obesity related conditions. The TV programme highlighted how weight loss surgery (Gastric bypass surgery) is one possible long term solution to help people lose weight and keep it off. However, the programme also highlighted that access to such services is very limited and variable across the country. Whilst weight loss surgery certainly has its place for some people its certainly not an easy solution. Diet and lifestyle programmes can work equally as well for many people provided they have the right motivations, advice and support.

One very positive accept of the BBC programme was the success seen in lots of people taking part in NHS funded diet and physical activity programmes. Early results from our recent 2 day diet study  has found, 60% of people who had a body mass index (BMI) within the ‘obese’ range (30 or more) were able to lose at least 5% of their body weight through following our 2 day diet (https://preventbreastcancer.org.uk/2_day_diet/) and increasing exercise levels.

Losing 5% weight or more and keeping it off has significant benefits to health and can lower risk of breast cancer and other weight related conditions.