Average calorific intake has increased by at least 500 calories a day
Greed, rather than laziness, is the major cause of the obesity epidemic across the developed world, research has shown.
A study comparing data from the US from the 1970s and the early 2000s found that over the past 30 years average calorific intake has increased by at least 500 calories a day, while exercise levels have changed little.
If exercise levels had not changed at all, the weight of the average adult would have increased by an average of 24 pounds. In fact, the true figure was four pounds lower, suggesting exercise levels must have actually increased slightly over the period.
The researchers from the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, based in Australia, said their findings were likely to be replicated across the Western world.
Professor Boyd Swinburn, from Deakin University, Victoria, in Australia, which published the study, said: ‘This is a call to focus public health attention more on the energy intake side. We need to limit our expectations of what an increase in physical activity can achieve.’
Last year, on this side of the pond, the largest British study into obesity concluded that excess weight had become the norm. It predicted that by 2050, 90 per cent of today’s children will be overweight or obese – costing taxpayers an estimated £50 billion.
Now new research show that almost 19,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with cancer that could have been prevented if they were a healthy weight.
Professor Martin Wiseman, an advisor for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said if everyone had a body mass index (BMI) under 25 it would make a big dent in the incidence of cancer.
A healthy BMI is defined as between 18.5 and 25, but, for example, scientists estimate that someone at the top of the healthy weight range is 15% more likely to develop bowel cancer than someone at the bottom of it.
Overall, scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented if people ate healthily, were physically active and maintained a healthy weight.