(NaturalNews) Obesity is again vying with 'climate change' as the most prominent 'long-term human survival issue' discussed in the British media. Recent news items have been precipitated by emerging statistics showing that in the last 5 years the number of obese people in the United Kingdom has risen inexorably.
In the final quarter of 2007 it has been predicted that within 3 years approximately 33% of males and almost three tenths of the female population in the UK will become clinically defined as obese. This implies that the total number of obese Britons will have doubled in less than twenty years.
If this trend continues the indications are that well over half the population will become obese by about 2030, with a staggering four fifths of the population being considered overweight.
The last five years has seen unprecedented injections of cash into the UK's National Health Service (NHS) but much has been diverted to treat what some suggest are 'avoidable diseases'. Health problems related to obesity are already costing the NHS over GB£1 billion (US$2 billion) per year. Unless the issue is tackled rapidly and effectively it will become an intolerable burden on the public purse, estimated to amount to more than GB £45 billion (US$90 billion)annually, within the next 25 years.
Almost three fifths of the cases of type 2 diabetes and over one fifth of heart disease problems, in the UK, are already attributed to the sufferers being obese. These figures are set to rise in tandem with greater numbers of men and women carrying increasing amounts of excess fat.
Such forecasts have led expert's to proclaim that the UK cannot hope to provide sustainable world-class health care, or achieve a healthier nation if such trends continue.
The UK's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is now said to be backing the need for funding a long-term 'obesity action plan'. Current efforts to increase children's exercise levels, improve the nutritional quality of school food and impose stricter labelling requirements have so far had no discernible impact on the trend towards increasing levels of obesity.
As has so often been the case in the last 50 years, the UK appears to be following closely on the heavy heels of the United States with respect to obesity becoming a critical social concern. However, it is possible that recent US research implying that obesity might be 'contagious', could provide an insight to why numbers of seriously overweight citizens on both sides of the Atlantic are rising so rapidly.
Harvard Medical Researchers reported the findings of a 'heart study' that indicated that if you are surrounded by overweight family and/or friends you are more likely also to become overweight yourself.
Interestingly the effect seemed to be more significant between fat friends than fat family – dispelling any simple suggestion that genetics played a key role in these observations.
It has been subsequently speculated that when we are surrounded by obese or overweight people our perception of body related norms may shift and lead us to become overweight ourselves.
There has been a suggestion, on a positive note, that 'fat friends' may provide moral support for each other during a time when they are all trying to lose weight. However, the question must arise, if we are seriously trying to shed the pounds, should we simply 'dump' our fat friends and seek a new 'leaner' social network?