This year we ran a bursary competition for students to write a blog post. We are delighted to share our winner, Nusaybah, who wrote an interesting piece on the obesity epidemic.
Obesity has our society locked in chains, damaging it from within. Obesity is a medical epidemic which has boomed vastly over the last decade due to the easy accessibility of cheap junk food. An accumulative disease with direct link to CVD, numerous cancers, diabetes and even severe depression. Today nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese and staying obese for longer (HM Government, 2016). Is our medical system doing enough to prevent and tackle this notorious disease? Many approaches from the government have been taken one of which include the sugar tax.
Obesity is defined as having an excess amount of body ratio fat compared to the rest of your body. This abnormal amount of excess fat is measured using BMI (body mass index). BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height (NHS choices, 2018). It is calculated using your weight divided your height in metres squared. For most adults, a BMI of 30-39.9 is classed as obese and a BMI of 40 or above is classed as severely obese (NHS choices, 2018). However, BMI is not used diagnostically to prove that a person is obese, as a person who has large muscle density (such as a healthy rugby player) has a high BMI due to their excess muscle mass. In addition with BMI, waist circumference is used reliably to determine whether a person is obese. Men with a waist circumference of 94 cm (37in) or more and woman with a waist circumference of 80cm (about 31 .5in) or more are more likely to develop obesity related health problems (NHS choices, 2018).
Obesity has been proven to cause life threatening conditions, a poor quality of lifestyle and even decreasing the chances of fertility. It is caused by a poor diet and consuming far more calories than a person is burning off, particularly consuming a large amount of fatty foods and drinks. Obesity is directly linked to circulatory problems such as sudden heart attacks, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat (Harvard Health Publications, 2018). Such issues that can cause an instantaneous death and increases the risk of heart disease by 81%. (Harvard Health Publications, 2018). Psychological issues such as severe depression and anxiety can develop due to being obese. This is due to social media negatively influencing people that being fat is “ugly” hence lowering a person’s self- esteem and confidence, which is factually known to be linked to obesity. Stress eating and feeling emotionally overwhelmed is a factor which causes obesity and is one of the reasons why many people are unable to control their weight. Due to food becoming their coping mechanism it is extremely difficult to control how much they are consuming. Furthermore, statistics has shown that obese people have a whopping 55% higher risk of developing depression over time compared to a person with normal weight (Harvard Health Publications, 2018).
Obesity is a huge problem in our society today, as the toll taken by the NHS is rapidly increasing. More people are admitted to hospital with heart conditions, gallstones or needing hip and knee replacements related to their weight (S. Boseley 2018). Obesity is a reversible disease which is causing the NHS a large sum of money to treat.
There are various risks factors which increase the chances of being obese, many of which include children who are sadly brought up in low income backgrounds. Their parents are unable to provide healthy food, due to a lack of money and sometimes even a severe lack of knowledge as to the importance of healthy eating. Children aged 5 and from the poorest income groups are twice as likely to be obese compared to their most well-off counterparts and by age 11 they are three times as likely (HM Government, 2016). Another direct risk factor of obesity is the easy availability in supermarkets of junk foods and unhealthy meals. The lower the prices the more drawn the general public is to buy such foods compared to an expensive healthy choice. Therefore, changes in the environment (decreased need for physical activity and greater availability of cheap food) mean we are all at increased risk of obesity compared with our parents and grandparents (T. Frayling, 2012).
There are many measures in place to address the problems of obesity such as a recent tax on sugary soft drinks being enforced, meaning consumers will have to pay more for their favourite refreshments. This will help to reduce obesity as it will reduce the general public’s sugar intake. Ministers and campaigners believe it has already proved to be a success with many firms reducing sugar content ahead of the change (N.Triggle, 2018). A sugar tax ensures consumers will be more wary of their decision of buying an expensive drink and the extra money being made in England being invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs (N.Triggle, 2018). The sugar tax is cost effective as it does not cost the government anything to implement it and it actually profits the government. Children from lower income households will benefit from the sugar tax as the money profited from the tax will benefit them through their attendance at these sports and breakfast clubs. Many of the general public are outraged as many believe that the government should not be interfering with their personal lives, and there is a risk that consumers may buy the same amount of sugary drinks but just pay more (N.Triggle, 2018). Hence, it has not been practical to implement as it has caused an uproar in the general public. Many whom believe that educating people to drink within limits and making healthier drinks cheaper is a much better solution to tackling obesity. Although it is still too early to judge whether or not this sugar tax will decrease the rise in obesity, it is still a positive step in the right direction. Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "Our teenagers consume nearly a bathtub of sugary drinks each year on average, fueling a worrying obesity trend (N.Triggle, 2018). The levy is a ground-breaking policy that will hopefully help to reduce sugar intake and decrease the risk of childhood obesity (N.Triggle, 2018). Socially, the sugar tax will benefit the oral health of children and help reduce the statistics of preventable tooth extraction linked to an excess sugar intake.
I believe that the sugar tax should also be implemented on sugary snacks such as sweets, crisps and cakes. This will increase the effectiveness in tackling childhood obesity as it will steer parents away from such snacks. I also believe that revealing, fun healthy snack, alternatives to children and parents at school assemblies will hep to combat childhood obesity. The cost of healthier snacks such as vegetables and snacks that are not sugary should be made cheaper and more available to lower income families. I believe that the money from such taxes should be invested back into fitness sports programmes to help children be more active and most importantly enjoy themselves. Healthy eating, fitness and sugar free snacks should be easily accessible to parents and should be appealing to children. This will make them more interested and will change the obesity trend which children sadly some are carrying into adulthood.
In conclusion I believe that the sugar tax plays a crucial role in our society today. Our choice is a stark simple one. A sugar tax is the next logical step in combating childhood obesity. It only brings about benefits and the money being made is being put to good use. Tackling childhood obesity in the bud is vital as not doing so will lead to tooth loss, diabetes at a young age and severe heart problems. Children are our next generation and it is extremely important to educate them and teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle.