Annie Anderson: We have created an '˜obesogenic' world

We should be helping obese and over-weight adults as well as children, writes Professor Annie Anderson.

Annie Anderson: We now have a growing body of evidence to show that weight management can prevent diabetes. Picture: contributed

It is so easy to think that obesity prevention should focus on children – after all, almost half of all overweight adults were overweight as children. There are many good reasons why we would not want our children to carry extra weight, both for physical and mental health. No one would deny the importance of childhood health.

But, this does not mean we should ignore adult weight. The last Scottish Health Survey reported that 65 per cent of Scots were overweight (of these 29 per cent were obese) and in men aged 65 to 74 this figure rose to 85 per cent (with 41 per cent obese).

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The focus on child weight has undoubtedly detracted from the importance of excess fat in adults and many people assume that weight gain in mid-life is normal, little can be done about it and why should you bother later in life?

There are many good reasons for bothering: diabetes, heart disease and 13 types of cancer have been associated with obesity.

Importantly, we now have a growing body of evidence to show that weight management can prevent or delay diabetes presenting in the first place and that effective weight-loss programmes can be reverse the disease.

Modest, intentional weight loss has also been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer (even after the age of 50) and the more severe treatment of bariatric surgery has been demonstrated to reduce cancers by 33 per cent (with the highest reductions in post menopausal breast, colon, endometrial and pancreatic cancers).

Weight loss is tough but it can be done – interventions developed by university teams in Scotland such as Football Fans in Training, BeWEL and the ActWEL programme (which is currently being offered in breast screening clinics) have demonstrated that with the right approach the over 50s can lose weight but support is needed.

Whether it’s family, peers or other football fans, the more support the better because we have to run the gauntlet of our obesogenic environment.

Food and sweetened drinks from garages, vending machines, worksite cafes, local cafes, corner shops, colleagues, canteens are there to taunt.

The Scottish Government consultation on obesity is open till end of January – we all need to be thinking how we can support our community – both adults and children – to stand up to obesity.

• Professor Annie Anderson, of the University of Dundee’s school of medicine, is a public health nutritionist and a dietitian