Press release

Government calls time on obesity

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A bid to slash five billion calories off the nation's daily diet was set out as part of the Government's ambitious new plan to tackle obesity by the Department of Health today.

The obesity Call to Action announces a new national ambition for reversing the tide of excess weight in England.  Speaking at the launch, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley challenged businesses to help play a greater role -  alongside Government and NGOs - to change the environment in which we live, support everyone make healthier choices and contribute to a downward trend in excess weight by 2020. 

Backing this, England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, set out a fresh approach and called for everyone to be more honest with themselves about their eating and drinking habits - and for the majority of adults and many children that means eating and drinking less. 

England already has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and some of the highest rates in the developed world.  Over 60 per cent of adults and a third of 10 and 11 year olds are overweight or obese.

To reverse the tide of obesity so the number of overweight or obese people begins to fall by 2020 we need:

  • a new approach that helps people get and keep a healthy weight throughout their lives;
  • the full range of partners to play their part in changing the environment - from the public, private and non-governmental organisations sectors;
  • the food and drink industry to extend and intensify their efforts to help people make healthier choices;
  • continued investment in Change4Life;
  • local authorities to use their new powers and ring fenced public health budget to make a difference in communities; and
  • to reduce our national calorie intake by 5 billion calories a day.

Eating or drinking too many calories is at the heart of the obesity problem.  A detailed analysis by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has published more precise data about the number of calories we all need.  They advise that on average men should eat 2605 calories and women should eat 2079 calories each day.  However, the reality of the size of the nation’s waistline shows that most people already consume far more than this.  This highlights just how wide the perception gap is and how a collective drive through the Call to Action is needed to turn this around.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country.  Government has a role to play, but it is clear that we cannot do this alone.  We need to work in a broad partnership with local authorities, businesses, charities, health professionals and individuals. 

“We have already seen how we can move further, faster through the Responsibility Deal and I am now challenging business to help us make even greater progress.  Reducing the number of calories we consume is essential.  It can happen if we continue action to reduce calories in everyday foods and drinks, and if all of us who are overweight take simple steps to reduce our calorie intake.

“If we collectively rise to the challenge we have set in the Call to Action, we can create an environment that helps people make informed, balanced choices about their health and reduce the burden of obesity.”

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies:

“Obesity is a leading cause of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  We must get to grips with the problem now to save lives and money in the future. 

“Most of us are eating or drinking more than we need to and are not active enough. Being overweight or obese is a direct consequence of eating more calories than we need.  Increasing physical activity is a part of the equation, but reducing the amount of calories we consume is key. 

“We all have a role to play, from businesses to local authorities, but as individuals we all need to take responsibility.  This means thinking about what we eat and thinking about the number of calories in our diets to maintain a healthy weight.”

Chair of SACN’s Energy Requirements Working Group Professor Alan Jackson said:

“Our report used the most up-to-date methodology and found that the average energy requirements for the UK need to be revised. This information is crucial for health professionals and those planning menus for specific groups, for example, people in care homes.  

“However, the majority of adults are eating more than they need, even more than the revised energy guidelines published today.  Most people would be surprised to realise how much they are overeating - on average we are consuming around 10 per cent more calories than we need. This is why we have an obesity problem - and it is clear we cannot carry on eating this amount of excess without serious public health consequences.”

Notes to Editors

1. 5 billion calories represents 16.9 million cheese burgers which would cover around 20 premiership football pitches.  It also equates to 28,409,091 caffe lattes which would fill four Olympic swimming pools.

2. The Call to Action will be published on the Department of Health website.

3. SACN’s report on energy requirements can be found on the SACN website.

4. On average adults consume around 10 per cent more calories than needed.  This figure is based on a comparison between the energy requirements at a healthy BMI of 22.5 and the energy required to maintain a BMI of 27 using average heights for ages 30-60 years.

5. On average, an obese man habitually consumes around 500 kcal more than a healthy weight man every day.

6. Increasing physical activity can also be helpful alongside calorie reduction in achieving weight loss and sustaining a healthy body weight, as well as improving overall health.

7. The Change4Life Marketing Strategy was also published today.  It can be found on the Department of Health website.

8. For healthy eating tips and recipes visit the Change4Life website or NHS Choices.

9. For further media enquiries please call the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.