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Obesity is now a disease of poverty, claims public health chief

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Obesity is now a disease of poverty, claims public health chief



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Obesity is now a disease of the poor, a public health chief said today.

William Roberts, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said the change was “frightening”.

“There’s a really seismic shift that we haven’t seen before,” he said at a public health conference.

‘We are at a time in history where obesity is now a marker of poverty, not a marker of wealth.

‘For many years, being obese was because you had money and could afford to eat.

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‘Obesity is now a sign of poverty.

‘Maybe we want to reflect on what that means and why that is. It’s terrifying to think about.’

Roberts was speaking at an event hosted by the Local Government Association.

In 2022, a report warned that 36.8 per cent of people in the most deprived areas of England were obese.

In comparison, the figure was just over half (19.2 percent) among the richest.

Experts have blamed the disparity in part on the rising cost of healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and the abundance of takeout junk food options in poorer neighborhoods.

Overall, two-thirds of all British adults are now fat, compared to just half in their mid-90s.

Of them, a quarter are obese.

The obesity crisis is estimated to cost the nation almost £100bn a year.

This colossal figure includes health damage to the NHS, as well as secondary economic effects such as loss of income due to people taking time off work due to illness and premature death.

Experts have called on ministers to confront the crisis, demanding that action be taken on both junk food and ultra-processed foods with the same aggressiveness that the Government has dedicated to tobacco.

Ministers hope a wave of new anti-obesity drugs, such as the weight-loss hit Ozempic, will help turn the tide and get more Brits back to work.

Earlier this year, he floated plans to launch breakthrough drugs to reduce the country’s swollen benefits bill.


Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.

Standard formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))


  • Under 18.5: Under weight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: Over weight
  • 30 – 39.9: Obese
  • 40+: Morbid obesity

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