The Fat Nation
SCOTLAND comes second only to the United States as the most overweight nation in the world, according to new statistics that reveal one in four Scottish adults is classified as obese.
The study warned the "obesity epidemic" in Scotland must be urgently addressed and described the issue as a "major public-health problem".
The report by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (SPHO) said that, since 1995, obesity had increased in the adult population by 46 per cent; it was particularly bad among men aged 35-64 and women of 35-44.
One in five children in primary 7 was estimated to be obese in 2004-5, and the report's authors estimated the growing problem costs Scotland 171 million each year.
There is a startling gap in obesity rates between Scotland and its neighbours.
Some 25.5 per cent of adult Scots have a body mass index (BMI) rating of 30 or over, while Norway's figure is 8.3 per cent and Italy's 9 per cent. Across the water, 13 per cent of Ireland's adults are regarded as obese, and in France the rate is 9.5 per cent.
The main causes of obesity are listed as the sedentary lifestyle of Scots and a preference for fatty, high-calorie foods.
The findings were published as the Scottish Government unveiled plans to tackle junk food in schools.
Ian Grant, principal research officer for the SPHO programme that compiled the research, said that detailed information about how the problem would escalate was scant.
"Over the last ten years, the problem has been increasing and there is nothing to suggest from these figures that the problem will reduce in the next few years," he said. "What we have to do is look at the factors that are responsible and if some of these things don't improve, then I would imagine the problem of obesity will increase."
The report used figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and data from the 2003 Scottish Health Survey.
It defined an obese person as someone with a BMI, which is worked out by calculating the weight to height ratio, of more than 30. Men with a waist measurement of more than 102cm and women of 88cm or more are at increased risk of obesity- related morbidity. Children's obesity is normally calculated by using age-specific cut-offs.
Experts warned of a looming health crisis if the problem was not tackled immediately.
A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said it was crucial to educate children about healthy eating, make nutritious food cheaper and ensure products were clearly labelled.
She said: "This is not just a health problem. It is a problem that has to be tackled as a social issue. If we act now, we can save the next generation."
Dr David Haslam, clinical director for the National Obesity Forum, said the findings were "shocking" but not unexpected, given that the UK tends to follow American trends. He said: "It is an eating history, it's environment, it's a lack of breast feeding; essentially, it's a bit of everything. But if you live in the environment we currently have, then it's difficult to avoid obesity."
Politicians said urgent action was needed. Ross Finnie, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "Childhood obesity rates are a ticking time bomb the Scottish Government must address as a matter of urgency."
Shona Robison, the minister for public health, said: "The Scottish Government recognises that obesity is an increasing problem and poses a very serious threat to health. This is why we are making tackling the problem, particularly early in life, a high priority."
Turkey Twizzlers are awful but who has thyme for risotto?
AS THE mother of three children aged 13, 11 and six, I know all nippers have different tastes.
The eldest is addicted to cheese and pesto, the middle one would quite happily live on pasta and the youngest is a human vacuum cleaner, swallowing virtually whatever is placed in front of her.
Feeding them can drive me insane, so my sympathies to the dinner ladies who have to cook for 300 or so.
While our government sticks its nose into far too much of our personal life, it's about time it sorted out what schools shovel into our offspring's mouths every day. A pitifully small sum per child is provided for school lunches, considering childhood is when a difference to future health can be made.
Of course, there has to be a middle ground, and even though Jamie Oliver has brought this to the public eye, I'm not sure his recipes were ideal for mass catering.
Turkey Twizzlers, chips and fizzy drinks certainly have no place in a school dining hall, but can you imagine trying to knock up several hundred portions of roasted sweet garlic, thyme and mascarpone risotto with toasted almonds and breadcrumbs? I'd have trouble making that for six, and I doubt my children would touch it with a bargepole even if I did.
However, there is a change in foods aimed at children: crisps are baked instead of fried and yoghurts come in packs that make them ideal for slipping in a schoolbag.
The idea of giving a child a bag of sweets for a snack appals me, but I have no doubt many parents do that. Sending them to sit and attempt to concentrate with 'E' numbers seeping from every pore is hardly going to make life easy for any teacher.
It's tricky finding the point at which you believe your children are eating well without becoming the sort of food fascist that will drive them to the pick 'n' mix counter whenever they are out of your sight. I can only hope I'm doing my best - and when we've all been really good, it's fish suppers all round.
'Chippy is cheaper than the school canteen and we don't all wait so long in the queue'
THE scene at the Bar B Que fish restaurant in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, is one played out across Scotland every weekday lunchtime.
Shortly after the bell, scores of teenagers spill out from nearby Craigmount High School to queue for their staple meals: fish and chips, pizza and chips, sausage suppers, all washed down with fizzy juice.
All of the options are high in fat, sugar and salt. Few of the pupils give this a second thought.
The scene underlines just how difficult a job the Scottish Government has and is one of the key reasons why the administration yesterday set out tough new guidelines to make school dinners healthier.
From now on chips will only be allowed three times a week, diet drinks will be banned, and cereal bars removed from school canteens.
The moves marks a change from the previous administration, which planned to allow chips every day, but only with a meal, and permit both diet drinks and cereal bars which can often be high in fat and sugar. The previous education minister, Hugh Henry, made the decision against the guidance of a panel of nutritional experts.
The new SNP schools minister, Adam Ingram, yesterday issued the stricter guidance, which accepts those expert recommendations. The rules will come into force in August, with further details expected later this year.
Under the new guidelines, sugary drinks, fatty crisps, chewing gum, sweets and chocolate in any form will all be banned.
A choice of fruit and vegetables must be offered and oily fish should be on the menu at least once every three weeks.
However, cakes, biscuits and puddings will still be allowed as long as they do not contain chocolate chips. Cakes made with cocoa powder, however, are acceptable.
Mr Ingram has even gone a step further by banning diet drinks in schools.
Nutrition scientist Charlotte Musgrove, of the British Nutrition Foundation, said reducing the number of times deep-fried products were available to children could only be a good thing. She said: "Studies show that children tend to be eating a diet that is too high in fat, sugar and salt, so restricting fried foods on the menu for school lunches to three times a week is a positive move."
Mr Ingram said: "By targeting our youngest citizens we can make a lasting difference.
"Putting healthy options on a plate for pupils every day will develop their taste for the food that's good for them and stop unhealthy habits from taking hold."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman conceded the guidelines would not stop secondary pupils from leaving the school at lunchtime to seek chips elsewhere.
She said: "Our aim is to make school meals more healthy and more attractive to children.
"We are not looking at preventing children from leaving school at lunchtime because we want to encourage children to make their own healthy choices."
But the challenge of changing the behaviour of Scotland's schoolchildren will not be easy, judging by the reaction from the pupils of Craigmount High.
Paul, 15, said it was a simple economic choice: "We go to the chippy once a week, get a burger and chips from the burger van about once a week and Somerfield's now and then for a baguette.
"It's a money issue. Pizza and chips at school is smaller yet costs over 2. That's without a drink. At the chippy it's 1 for a pizza and chips. We use the extra money saved to buy more food. I would give 'healthy eating' a try for some of the week but it would depend on the price.
"We don't want to be hanging around the school all the time - this way we can nip home or go to someone's house or look in the shops."
Rory, 15, said the long queues in the school canteen when he was hungry put him off. "There is a 'healthy' queue at the school canteen selling things like baked potatoes, paninis and sandwiches but it takes 20-25 minutes to get served and then you still have to sit down to eat."
Steven, 15, said: "None of us worry about diet. It doesn't matter what the government does - we are still going to go out at lunchtime."
FIONA MACLEOD, SHN ROSS AND CRAIG BROWN
A NUTRITIONIST'S ANALYSIS
THE Scottish Government's move is a step in the right direction. Allowing chips to be served every day would have sent out a mixed message because you cannot stop children from just eating the chips and leaving everything else.
Nutritionally speaking, reducing, restricting or banning chips is 100 per cent the right thing to do.
However, older children will still have the right to leave the school grounds at lunchtime and the change of menu could actually cause a fall in the uptake of school meals. It could be that some children will miss out on all the really positive things that are happening if they get foods high in fat, sugar and salt from outside school.
The best thing to do, if possible, would be to source oven chips which weren't deep-fried first, which should conform to Scottish Government guidelines.
It would allow children to feel they had got their chips.
However, on the issue of baking, I would say that foodstuffs are not good or bad simply because they contain chocolate.
And the main problem with diet drinks is that they have no nutritional value - whereas with milk you are getting calcium and with fruit juice you are getting one of your five portions of fruit and veg a day. So it is better to promote them rather than diet drinks.
Many children know what healthy food is, but we should not assume this is true across the board.
We also have to make it relevant because children see heart disease, diabetes and cancer as diseases of old age.
They have to know what to do - and it has to be made easy for them by providing good food in schools.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west