HealthExpress News Thursday May 29, 2014

Obesity World Cup Q&A With Dr Hilary Jones

Following on from our introduction to the HealthExpress Obesity World Cup, we asked our partner Medical Advisor, Dr Hilary Jones, to answer some questions about the implications of the data we unveiled.

Using official sources such as the World Health Organisation, we compared the rates of obesity for the population of each country competing in the 2014 World Cup. Some of our key findings are set out below.

We used the data to create an interactive app highlighting this growing worldwide health issue using the topical format of the World Cup tournament.

Read on to compare each nation's obesity ranking, and to find out what Dr Hilary had to say about the results.

The chart below sets out which countries have a high enough obesity percentage to make it to the knockout stages, and on towards the final.

Here are some of the key findings from the data:

  • Mexico - highest percentage of obese people

  • Korea Republic - lowest percentage of obese people

  • Iran - biggest disparity between percentage of obese men and women

  • Mexico, USA, Argentina, Chile, Australia - The top five obese countries

  • England, Russia - Joint sixth highest percentage of obese people

  • Brazil - Do not qualify past the group stage due to relatively low obesity rate

  • Argentina and Mexico - The two countries who proceed to the World Cup final

Here's what Dr Hilary had to say about the findings:

Should we be concerned by these trends?

Dr Hilary: Yes of course. Obesity is one of the greatest threats to health in the world today as recognised by the World Health Organisation. However it is an entirely preventable cause of chronic disease and premature death. Obesity is to the 21st century what tobacco was to the 20th century, causing all kinds of physical, emotional and social problems. With one half of the UK population set to become obese by the year 2050 it is a problem that requires urgent attention.

What are the main contributing factors to becoming overweight or obese?

Dr Hilary: Put very simply, we are eating too much of the wrong foods and taking too little exercise. Our plates are overladen with energy-dense, high-calorie foods, packed with too much sugar and fat. Our average levels of physical activity are disastrously low. We ourselves need to make the correct food choices and the food industry, governments and schools also need to take greater responsibility for the quality of the food and drink that we consume.

What are the long-term health problems that can arise from neglecting a weight problem?

Dr Hilary: Common health problems associated with being overweight and obese include coronary heart disease, diabetes, strokes, joint problems gallbladder conditions, skin conditions and of course cancer. Many cancers, including breast cancer, are associated with obesity. Overall people who are obese are more likely to die up to 10 years earlier than people of a healthy weight. On top of this there is the emotional and physiological impact of obesity, with poor self-esteem, lowered confidence and the spectrum of anxiety and depression, which in turn can lead to the vicious cycle of seeking to eat more food as a comfort for this kind of distress.

What practical steps can be taken to ensure a healthier body weight and less risk of associated long-term health problems?

Dr Hilary: If only we could tackle these problems before it starts, at an early age. We need to monitor weight throughout childhood so that we can take early measures if we see that a child's weight is increasing too fast. We need to make the right choices about the food that we eat, choosing high-fibre, low-fat, low-sugar food, made up largely of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and lean meat and less processed food full of oil and sugar. We also need to include alcohol in our total daily calorie counts. We need to be more disciplined about exercise, and get into the habit of enjoying aerobic type activity that increases our pulse rates and make us short of breath for at least 30 to 40 minutes, four times per week. We need to curtail our over-reliance on the car, on escalators and on playing electronic games or watching TV, and instead get out in the open air and use our bodies as they were designed to be used. Many people have never known what it is like to be truly fit and to appreciate how good it feels. Mores the pity!

To explore the results of the Obesity World Cup in full, visit the interactive page. For more advice on managing your weight, you can visit our weight loss information section.

Written by Nicola Beckett.

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