There are around 32,000 heart and circulatory deaths as a result of excess weight and obesity every year, according to analysis from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The foundation has urged the Government to enact its plans to restrict online junk food advertising, as detailed in its obesity strategy announced last year, and ‘make the healthy option the easy option’ for both adults and children.
Around 85 deaths per day from heart and circulatory diseases are attributable to a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, according to the BHF’s analysis of Global Burden of Disease data for 2019. This is similar to the number of deaths from heart and circulatory diseases attributed to smoking.
The proportion of people with obesity in the UK has almost doubled since the early 1990s, with an estimated 28% of adults classed as having a BMI of over 30, and 64% with a BMI of over 25.
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘With Covid-19 and obesity, the country faces two epidemics interacting at once.
‘Obesity is not only a major risk factor for serious Covid-19 illness, but it can also increase people’s risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases, such as a heart attack or stroke.’
She added: ‘We know obesity is a complex issue, and simply telling people to exercise more and eat less alone will not solve it. We need to address the key factors that make an unhealthy environment, and the Government must not waver in implementing the bold measures outlined in the obesity strategy they announced last year, such as a 9pm watershed and clear restrictions on online junk food advertising.’
However, it comes after a recent report on body image by the Women and Equalities Committee said that BMI as a health measure should be scrapped immediately, as it can contribute to health issues such as eating disorders and the disruption of body image.
The committee called for an independent review of the obesity strategy and for the adoption of a ‘healthy at every size’ approach to replace BMI.
The chair of the committee, Caroline Nokes, said last week: ‘The use of BMI as a measure of healthy weight has become a kind of proxy or justification for weight shaming. This has to stop.
‘We are particularly alarmed by the rise in eating disorders and concerned that the obesity strategy and data collection of obesity levels in kids make things worse by failing to promote healthy behaviours.
‘The Government must ensure its policies are not contributing to body image pressures.’