Why the government is going sweet on a sugar tax

The UK government in England is expected to publish its long-awaited child obesity strategy.

The UK government in England is expected to publish its long-awaited child obesity strategy.

At the heart of the debate is the merit, or otherwise, of a sugar tax. Health experts have been campaigning hard for one to be introduced – and even the government advisory body Public Health England has put a case for it.

But for much of the time since the election, ministers have been resistant. Until recently. There are now signs they’re coming round to the idea. This much is obvious from the change in tone from the prime minister himself.

Earlier this month, she said he wasn’t ruling out a tax, which is somewhat different from last year’s statements that she “doesn’t see a need” for it.

A similar flip-flopping could be said to have happened over minimum pricing for alcohol (although that is still in the pending box as no final decision has been made).

Conservatives are naturally wary of introducing new taxes and accusations of the nanny state.

So what has influenced government thinking this time? The delay in publication has certainly allowed the experts to mount a vigorous campaign.

As well as the normal array of doctors and health chiefs, TV chef Jamie Oliver has also waded in. He set up an e-petition which saw more than 150,000 people backing a sugar tax.

Meanwhile, NHS bosses have already announced they will be introducing their own “tax” in hospitals.

Understandably, no government wants to get caught on the wrong side of popular opinion.

But I’m also told that ministers have started to be persuaded by the evidence. One in five children is obese by the time they finish primary school. Include those classed as overweight and the figure jumps to one in three.

Children consume three times as much sugar as they should – with a third of that coming from fizzy drinks. And there is evidence it will work. In Mexico, consumption fell by 6% after a tax of 10% was introduced.

But, of course, the obesity strategy is not just about a tax. Other measures, including a crackdown on shop promotions and advertising (again not natural territory for Tories) as well as a sustained drive to reduce the sugar content of food are also in the mix.

There will be measures to get people more active too, although the emphasis will be very much on diet as there is an acknowledgement that without curbing calories there is a limit to what physical activity can do.

It will be, in effect, an acknowledgement that society is geared too much towards unhealthy lifestyles.

This much is clear from the way we consume food. Just look at food promotions, which are heavily weighted towards unhealthy products. About 40% of expenditure on food goes on promotions, causing us to purchase a fifth more than we would have otherwise, according to PHE.

The result is an unhealthy diet. Last week, researchers at the Food Foundation produced a model of the typical family’s diet.

Every member of the average family consumed too much sugar and saturated fat and too little of the good stuff – fibre, fruit and vegetables and oily fish. What is more, all but the youngest members were eating too much red and processed meat and salt.

It’s no wonder that some in the field are describing obesity as the “new smoking” – and ministers are, bit by bit, being convinced.

 

 

 

Can changing your mealtimes make you healthier?

Many people want to eat more healthily but find it difficult to change their diet.

Many people want to eat more healthily but find it difficult to change their diet.

 

We’ve known for some time that altering the time at which you eat can affect your weight and metabolism. At least if you are a mouse.

Based on mice studies, it seems the secret to improving your health is to restrict the time window within which you eat, and by doing so extend the amount of time you go without food.

A few years ago Prof Satchidananda Panda, from the world-famous Salk Institute in California, showed that mice fed on a high fat diet, but only allowed to eat within an eight hour window, were healthier and slimmer than mice that were given exactly the same food but allowed to eat it whenever they wanted.

In a more recent study the same researchers again subjected hundreds of mice to different lengths of daily fasts, ranging from 12 to 15 hours.
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Again they found that the mice that went for at least 12 hours without eating remained healthier and slimmer than those who ate the same number of calories, but spread out.

But how well would this work in humans? To find out, Trust Me I’m a Doctor recruited 16 volunteers for a 10-week study run by Dr Jonathan Johnston at the University of Surrey.

His team measured the volunteers’ body fat, blood sugar levels, blood fat (triglycerides) and cholesterol levels at the start of the study. They were then randomly assigned to one of two groups, the blues or the reds.

The blues, who were the control group, were asked to carry on as normal. The reds were asked to stick to their normal diet but move their breakfast 90 minutes later, and their dinner time 90 minutes earlier.

This meant that for three extra hours each day they went without food (fasting). Everyone kept a food and sleep diary to ensure that they were eating the same amount as normal.

So why would crunching the time within which you eat change anything? Well, there are two possible mechanisms.

Firstly, there are now plenty of studies which have shown that going for longer periods of time without eating – fasting – is beneficial.

It also seems that your body deals with calories better at certain times of day. According to Johnston, one of the worst times to load up with sugar and fat is late at night, when blood levels of these substances are already high.

After an overnight fast I had some bloods taken, then at 10:00 I had a classic British fry-up – lots of bacon, eggs and sausage. I had more bloods taken directly after the meal and every half hour for the next few hours. And yes, it did hurt.

Twelve hours later, at 22:00, I had my second meal of the day. It was exactly the same meal as I had had for breakfast. Again my bloods were taken regularly over the next few hours before I was eventually allowed to crawl into bed.

The blood tests showed that after my morning meal my blood sugar level returned to normal pretty quickly, while the levels of fat in my blood began to drop after about three hours. In the evening, however, after exactly the same meal, my blood sugar levels stayed high for much longer and the fat levels in my blood were still rising four hours after I finished eating.

So Johnston is right – our bodies really don’t like having to have to deal with lots of food late at night. A midnight snack will have a worse impact on your body than the same food eaten earlier in the day.

There’s an old adage: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper,” and it appears to be true. If you must have that fry-up, have it for breakfast.

But what about the main experiment, reducing the time period within which our volunteers were allowed to eat? Well, at the end of 10 weeks, we gathered all the volunteers together and repeated the tests.

What we found is that the group who had eaten breakfast later and dinner earlier had, on average, lost more body fat and seen bigger falls in blood sugar levels and cholesterol than the control group.

So it was very positive result and the first randomised trial of this sort carried out in humans.

Sticking rigidly to a reduced eating window may, for many people, not be entirely practical. But there does seem to be benefit from doing it when you can – and it is certainly a good idea to avoid the midnight cheeseburger.

 

The psychology of pain relief medicine

The manufacturer of a leading brand of painkiller has been accused of misleading customers in Australia.

The manufacturer of a leading brand of painkiller has been accused of misleading customers in Australia.

But how do people choose over-the-counter pain relief?

There’s a whole range of Nurofen products. There are Nurofen capsules, caplets and “meltlets”. Some are marketed to treat specific problems – Nurofen Migraine Pain or Nurofen Tension Headache.

But Nurofen maker Reckitt Benckiser has been ordered to take some of these “specific pain” products off the shelves in Australia. A court decided they were misleading consumers because the packaging made it seem as though they had been formulated to treat different types of pain. In fact, these products contained the same active ingredient – 342mg of ibuprofen lysine.

Reckitt Benckiser says that they are just meeting demand. They argue that 88% of people look for relief for a specific type of pain. Packaging tablets with clear labels saying “back pain” or “period pain” makes it easier for people to decide which one to get to meet their needs, they add.

But take this scenario. A customer has a packet of Nurofen Migraine Pain in their handbag. They suffer a tension headache. They buy Nurofen Tension Headache. By the Australian court’s view they are completely wasting their money – it’s fundamentally the same medicine in different packaging.

All of these specific pain versions cost about double the price of Nurofen’s standard version in Australia. The formulations used in Nurofen’s specific pain range in Australia contain lysine and sodium. The manufacturer says that this allows them to be absorbed faster than the standard version.

In the UK, similar medication is sold. Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension headache caplets have identical active ingredients. They contain the same 342mg of ibuprofen lysine that is in the Australian versions. But no legal action has been taken against Nurofen in the UK.

When someone swallows a general painkiller such as ibuprofen it’s distributed around the whole body through the bloodstream, says Farrah Sheikh, a GP from Greater Manchester. Painkillers targeting specific areas will treat the areas in pain but they cannot be sent directly to a particular part of the body, Sheikh suggests.

The discrepancy in price between different versions of branded painkiller is arguably no stranger than the variation in price between brands like Nurofen, and the generic equivalents that sit near by them on supermarket shelves. Somebody could walk into a Tesco in the UK and spend £2 on a packet of 16 Nurofen when a packet of 16 generic ibuprofen tablets – an identical drug – is just 30p.

The same situation exists in the US. Some people consistently choose Advil (ibuprofen), Tylenol (paracetamol) and Bayer aspirin rather than cheaper versions.

But a study found that people with higher levels of knowledge – for examples doctors and pharmacists – were much less likely to buy branded medicine over generics.

“You’re paying for the marketing essentially and the shiny box,” argues Sheikh. She tends to recommend using cheaper generic painkillers, but says that many of her patients are still loyal to certain brands.

The placebo effect could help explain this. “Just knowing that you’ve taken something can make you feel better,” explains Sheikh. Believing in a particular brand can also have a big impact.

In a recent study, researchers gave people with frequent headaches a dummy pill. Some of these placebos were packaged as branded painkillers and some weren’t. The branded ones were reported to be more effective at pain relief by those in the study and were associated with fewer side effects than the placebos packaged as generic medication.

Which painkiller is best?

Paracetamol: Used to treat headaches and most non-nerve pains, side effects are not common and this dose can be taken regularly for long periods, but overdosing can cause serious side effects; if the pain lasts for more than three days, see your GP
Ibuprofen: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen, seem to work better for arthritis or an injury. They should not be used for a long period unless you have inflammation. If you take them for long periods, there’s an increased risk of stomach upset, bleeding, and kidney and heart problems
Aspirin: Produces the same type of side effects as other NSAIDs, but is not as effective as a painkiller, which means it’s not usually prescribed for pain – dangerous for children under 16.

In the UK the colours of the pain killing tablets are different.

Tesco makes its generic ibuprofen silver to match the Nurofen packaging. Its generic aspirin is yellow, the same as Anadin Original. Its generic paracetamol is blue, the same as Panadol’s original paracetamol packaging. In other shops ibuprofen is typically red.

Colours also have an effect on how people feel about the medicine they are taking. Red pills have been reported to be more effective for treating pain than blue, green or white pills. But blue pills make more effective tranquilisers than red ones, except for Italian men. It’s been suggested this could be because blue is associated with their national football team.

Strong colours might help a product stand out from a crowded aisle. But it also pays to have lots of different formulations so that a brand can get as much shelf space as possible.

Even the supermarkets have tried the “specific pain” branding. Sainsbury’s had “migraine relief” and also “tension headache relief” – both 342mg ibuprofen lysine tablets – placed on shelves next to their Nurofen counterparts. The latter is now no longer sold. Anyone taking both in the same day for different types of headaches would have to be aware – for safety reasons – that they are the same drug.

The type of formulation can make a difference for treatment, says the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB). The body represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines, says that this can be the case even if products contain the same active ingredient.

“Sometimes manufacturers make things that are long acting so that the medicine works over a longer period of time,” explains Neal Patel, a pharmacist from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. This could give someone hours of pain relief so that they can get some sleep. A quick-acting painkiller on the other hand, could be especially useful for people with migraines.

It’s also possible that one type of tablet might be better tasting or easier to swallow than another while still being the same drug.

But the power of the placebo effect is hugely significant. “It’s very powerful. If someone trusts something then it’s more likely to work for them,” says GP Sarah Jarvis. Some of her patients with chronic pain have refused prescriptions because they would rather buy their own brand of painkillers.

Ibuprofen was discovered in 1961. It has joined aspirin and paracetamol in the special trinity of medicines that people keep close at hand, even when they’re well.

 

 

Share of life in fit healthy lives are rising

The proportion of life spent in good fit, healthy lives are increasing in England, even as life expectancy continues to rise.

The proportion of life spent in good fit, healthy lives are increasing in England, even as life expectancy continues to rise.

The research compared two identical surveys, 20 years apart, that measured the health of people aged 65 or older in Cambridge, Newcastle and Nottingham.

The data, collected in 1991 and 2011, involved more than 15,000 responses.

Experts say the findings are encouraging, but warned they suggest health inequalities remain in the UK.

New health threats – such as obesity – may have an impact on wellbeing in the future, which needs investigating, say the researchers.

The work, part-funded by the Medical Research Council and published in The Lancet, looked at three measures of good health:

self-perceived health
time free from cognitive impairment (dementia)
life without disability

In 2011, men spent nearly four more years and women about three more years in “self-reported” good health compared with the respondents in the 1991 survey.

The chance of having dementia also appeared to be reduced in the 2011 group – men and women enjoyed about four more years free of any cognitive impairment compared with those surveyed in 1991.

Life without disability gains between 1991 and 2011 were smaller – 2.6 years for men and half a year for women, on average – and there was a mixed picture. While severe disability became less common between 1991 and 2011, milder disability increased.
Image copyright Thinkstock

The researchers say the milder disability figures might be explained by rising rates of obesity and arthritis.

But, overall, they say their findings are positive.

Lead researcher Prof Carol Jagger, from Newcastle University, said: “Brain health has improved over the 20-year period. We’re not entirely sure why.”

Although, as individuals, people may be living more years without cognitive impairment, Prof Jagger said, it was important to remember the number of cases of dementia in the UK was still rising because of an ageing population – there were more elderly people living in the country, meaning more “at risk”.

“Our findings have important implications for government, employees and individuals with respect to raising the state pension age and extending working life,” she said.

“It is also necessary for community care services and family carers who predominantly support those with mild to moderate disability to enable them to continue living independently.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Real improvements in older peoples’ health are a real cause for celebration and demonstrate the continuing importance of supporting people to age well, especially through the provision of good quality health and social care services.”

“However, we know that health inequalities are still deeply entrenched across the UK and with a growing older population, particularly of those aged over the age of 85, there is still much more work to do to help every older person have a healthier and happier later life.”

 

 

 

Man’s weight affects sperm cells

A man’s weight affects the information passed on through his sperm and could leave his children predisposed to obesity.

A man's weight affects the information passed on through his sperm and could leave his children predisposed to obesity.

 

The sperm cells of lean and obese men possess different epigenetic marks, maybe changing the behaviour of genes.

Dr Romain Barres, the author of the research, said: “When a woman is pregnant she should take care of herself. But if the implication of our study holds true, then recommendations should be directed towards men too.”

Part of the research – which was carried out by the University of Copenhagen and published in the journal Cell Metabolism – tested the sperm of six obese men who were undergoing weight-loss surgery.

It looked at the men’s sperm before treatment, a week after the surgery and then for a third time a year later.

Dr Barres said changes to the sperm were noticeable in the men a week after the surgery, and also one year on.

He said although the genetic make-up of the sperm cells was likely to remain the same, he noticed “epigenetic changes”, which could change the way a gene expresses itself in the body.

Dr Barres admits a definitive scientific conclusion for how these epigenetic changes affect the gene is not yet scientifically known.

However, the sperm cell changes he recorded are linked to the genes known for appetite control and brain development.

The five-year study also recorded similar sperm cell changes when it compared 13 lean men – who all had a BMI of below 30 – with 10 moderately obese men.

Dr Barres said his findings have also been corroborated on mice and rats.

He goes on to suggest that there are possible evolutionary reasons why information about a father’s weight would be valuable to offspring.

His theory is that during in times of abundance, it is an instinctive way to encourage children to eat more and grow bigger.

“It’s only recently that obesity is not an advantage,” he said. “Only decades ago, the ability to store energy was an advantage to resist infections and famines.”

Prof Allan Pacey from the University of Sheffield, described the study as “interesting” and said it provided further evidence to support the theory that some characteristics can be passed by sperm, without altering the basic structure of the genetic code.

“Whilst the study examines a relative small number of individuals, the fact that such significant differences can be found in the epigenetic markers of lean and obese men is intriguing and in my opinion worthy of more detailed investigation,” he said.

“Until we know more, would-be parents should just aim to be as healthy as possible at the time of conception and not be drawn to faddy diets or other activities in order to try and influence the health of their children in ways we don’t properly understand.”

 

One in five children are obese leaving primary school

One in 10 children was obese at the start primary school in England last year but one in five was obese by the end.

One in 10 children was obese at the start primary school in England last year but one in five was obese by the end

The reserach was carried out by to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Although figures for Reception children have fallen slightly, the figures for obesity in Year 6 are on the rise.

Children living in the most deprived areas were twice as likely to be obese as children in affluent areas.

Campaigners said the figures should act as a wake up call.

The figures for 2014-15 come from the government’s National Child Measurement Programme for England which covers all state primary schools.

By measuring children’s weight and height and calculating their BMI (body mass index) centile, they can be put into one of four categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese.

Among children aged four and five in Reception year, 9.1% were classified as obese – compared with 9.5% in 2013-14 and 9.9% in 2006-07, when records began.

In Year 6, 19.1% of children were obese – an increase on figures from eight years ago.

While one in four or five children was overweight or obese in Reception, one in three was either overweight or obese in Year 6.

The London boroughs of Southwark, Newham, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets topped the table for obesity among children aged 10 to 11 (Year 6).

The figures showed 28% of Year 6 pupils in Southwark were classed as obese and 44% were either obese or overweight.

Wolverhampton had the largest number of obese 10 and 11-year-olds outside London.

Waverley in Surrey reported the smallest number of obese pupils – 5% in Reception and 9% in Year 6.

Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families at Public Health England, said tackling obesity was a major priority.

“While it is encouraging to see that overweight and obesity in children are levelling off, these figures are still unacceptably high and much worse in the poorest areas. The doubling of obesity levels between ages 4 and 11 is deeply concerning and highlights that much more needs to be done to help children and families.”

“We are committed to supporting local authorities by improving awareness locally, promoting the evidence behind ‘what works’ and providing advice to families through our Change4Life campaign.”

5 Simple Tips for Getting in Shape

Getting in shape shouldn’t be a chore.

Getting in shape shouldn't be a chore.

In fact, there are many easy ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday activities or focus on things you already love to do.
If you’re busy, don’t let it stop you. Try and fit more activity into the things you already do every day – whether at home or at work:

1. Just Move More

Choose the stairs. Youíll get a workout and avoid the awkward elevator rides. For a more strenuous workout, go up and down the stairs for 15 minutes.
Park farther away. Running errands, at work or dropping off kids, park as far away as you can to add a few more steps into your day.
Take walking breaks. Leave your desk occasionally to take a break to walk outside when the weatherís nice or stay inside and explore different areas of the building. This will give you a little stress break and let your eyes rest after staring at a computer screen. Also, it will add in a few more steps and youíll feel more rejuvenated when you get back to your desk.

2. Do What You Love

Maybe you enjoy rollerblading, perfecting your garden or snow skiing with your kids. When you enjoy exercise, youíre more likely to keep it up. You might want to try:

Walking with friends
Trying a new yoga class
Picking up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing
Joining a local recreation basketball or racquetball league
Going swimming at a nearby pool
Shooting hoops
Participating in a dance class
Biking around a local park with your kids

3. Set Small, Realistic and Specific Goals

If you decide to pick up jogging, start with running for 30 seconds and walking for two and a half minutes. The next week, run for 45 seconds and walk for one minute. Before you know it, you will be running for two-three minutes before you need to take a short walking break.

And if you have some setbacks, thatís OK. In the end, youíll see success if you stay consistent.

 

4. Plan for the Long Haul

Doctors recommend exercising for 30 minutes at least five times a week at a moderate level of activity (like gardening or walking). If that sounds overwhelming, build on small goals month-by-month.

5. Recruit Help from Friends

What else is going to help you reach your goals? Stay patient and positive until you get there ñ and you will get there.

Life changes are much easier to manage with a group of close friends and family supporting you. If you know someone whoís already active, ask them for tips or be brave and join them! In the end, it doesnít really matter how you exercise, whatës most important is finding a way to exercise doing what you love and making it a part of your daily routine.

Two thirds of Britons will be overweight or obese by 2025

Two thirds of Britons will be overweight or obese by 2025, new figures from the World Obesity Federation suggest.

Two thirds of Britons will be overweight or obese by 2025, new figures from the World Obesity Federation suggest.

Within just ten years, seven in ten men and 62 per cent of women will be carrying too much weight, placing a huge health burden on the NHS.

Weight gain is a risk factor for many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5billion every year which is likely to rise to £50 billion by 2050.

Currently around 66 per cent of men are overweight or obese and 57 per cent of women. However 74 per cent of men will be overweight or obese by 2030 and 64 per cent of women according to new figures.

The figures are in sharp contrast to countries like Belgium, Germany and Finland where the number of overweight or obese people is expected to barely change in the next decade.

In 2011 the World Health Organisation (WHO) set a goal for 2025 of no increase in obesity or diabetes beyond 2010 levels. But no country is set to achieve that target.

The WOF said that the government must act to impose taxes on fatty and sugary foods and make healthy food cheaper. However Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary has ruled out any measures, claiming that the food industry is already voluntarily working to make products more nutritious.

Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy at the World Obesity Federation said ìCommon risk factors such as soft drink consumption and sedentary working environments, have increased, fast food advertising continues and greater numbers of people live in urban environments without access to green spaces.

ìGovernments should take a number of actions to help prevent obesity, including introducing tough regulations to protect children from the marketing of unhealthy food and introducing taxes and subsidies to make healthier food cheaper and unhealthy food more expensive.î

The figures show that within the next 10 years, nearly five million more men and women will become overweight or obese in Britain bringing the total to 36 million. The number of severely obese adults will also rise by 40 per cent from three million people to more than four million.

WOF Professor Walmir Coutinho, said ìThe obesity epidemic has reached virtually every country worldwide, and overweight and obesity levels are set to continue to rise. Governments know the present epidemic is unsustainable and doing nothing is not an option.

They have agreed to tackle obesity and to bring down obesity prevalence to 2010 levels by the year 2025.

ìIf governments hope to achieve the WHO target of keeping obesity at 2010 levels, then the time to act is now.î

Asked about the prospect of missing its target, the World Health Organisation said: “Indeed the rates of overweight and obesity are increasing globally.

ìWHO has not made predictions on what the prevalence of overweight and or obesity may be in 2020 (the next reporting period) or at the final reporting period of 2025 as we can’t assume the rate of increase will continue and we must take into account the changing of global population structures.

“We do not see at this time that the current global target of ‘no increase in obesity’ will be met in adults or adolescents unless urgent focused action to reduce overweight and obesity is taken by countries and other stakeholders.”

Diet and lifestyle factors effect 70pc of deaths study finds

Bad diets and unhealthy lifestyles have become the biggest threat to life expectancy- fuelling seven in 10 deaths, a major Lancet study has found.

Bad diets and unhealthy lifestyles have become the biggest threat to life expectancy- fuelling seven in 10 deaths, a major Lancet study has found.The research on almost 200 countries found that increases in life expectancy – achieved thanks to improvements in sanitation and immunisation – are being eroded by the global obesity crisis.

The Global Burden of Disease study gathered data on 249 causes of death, 315 diseases and injuries and 79 risk factors in 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2015.

While deaths caused by infectious diseases such as malaria and flu have fallen sharply, the proportion of fatalities fuelled by lifestyles have soared.

In total, 71.3 per cent of deaths last year were caused by non infectious diseases, the study shows – a rise from 57.6 per cent per cent in 1990.

These include conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, all of which are affected by diet and lifestyle.

The research found high blood pressure – which is fuelled by obesity and lack of exercise – was the top risk factor for deaths, contributing to over 9 per cent of global health loss.

This was followed by smoking (6.3 per cent), high blood sugar (6.1 per cent), and high body mass index (5 per cent).

And although UK adults are living longer, millions are finding their later years blighted by poor health, the study found. On average, women can expect to spend their last 10 years in ill-health, the report says, while men will spend their last nine year suffering from health problems.

The findings showed that healthy life expectancy had increased steadily in 191 countries, adding an average 6.1 years to people’s life spans over the course of 15 years.

But overall life expectancy had risen further, by 10.1 years, suggesting that by 2015 people were spending a greater proportion of their lives in ill-health.

The research shows that health gains from progress on infectious diseases were cancelled out by a rising tide of illness, disability and death linked to lifestyles.

Britain’s obesity levels are the second worst in Europe, with six in ten adults obese.

Poor diet is fuelling diseases such as type two diabetes, with a 60 per cent rise in cases over the past decade, and obesity is on course to overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer.

Overall, life expectancy in this country is now 82 for women and 79 for men, the new study shows.

But the research shows that the last decade is spent battling ill-health and disability, with women only having a “healthy life expectancy” of 72, while for men it is 70.

In the UK, heart disease is the leading cause of death, followed by Alzheimer’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sweating in the gym may not lose weight

Exercise is the world’s best drug- it’s just not a weight loss drug.

Exercise is the world’s best drug- it’s just not a weight loss drug.A friend complained recently about not losing her winter paunch this summer despite swimming almost daily at the beach, combined with aerobic and weight workouts at the gym. When I pointed to the double scoop of ice cream she was happily devouring, she replied that she thought she had earned a reward for all her physical efforts.

My friend was operating under a fanciful illusion which is promoted by the fitness centre industry and glossy magazines: if you work out regularly, preferably with an expensive trainer or the magazine’s special exercises, you will lose weight and attain the body of your dreams.

But there is no scientific support for this notion. In fact, the evidence is quite the opposite. “You can’t outrun your fork,” says Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and founder of Canada’s Bariatric Medical Institute, which advises patients on non-surgical weight management.

“People tend to eat back their exercise,” Dr Freedhoff says. He notes there is an “unfair balance” between calorie consumption and calorie burning. It takes only a couple of minutes to gulp down a KitKat but the chocolate bar’s calories require more than an hour of heavy, sweaty exercise to burn off.

In fact, in one frequently cited study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of 467 obese women was divided into four groups and put on an exercise regime with different levels of intensity; at the end of six months, none of the four groups had lost any weight.

One reason for this problem may be what is known scientifically as “hedonic compensation”, or rewarding yourself for doing something that you find unpleasant.

Carolina Werle, an assistant professor of marketing at the École de Management in Grenoble, France, recently conducted three fascinating experiments to see why people fail to lose weight with exercise.

For example, one group of people was told to engage in a fun walk while another group was given the exact same programme but was told that it was a specific form of exercise. At the end of the programme, both groups were taken to an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. The group that had been told to exercise loaded up on fattening side dishes and pudding while the fun group ate less.

“The lesson is that the more fun we have while exercising, the less we will feel the need to compensate for it by eating more fattening food,” Ms Werle says. “It was just the perception of the activity that was different.”

Another myth, Dr Freedhoff says, is that more exercise will result in greater weight loss. Studies show that people who exercise for more than the recommended 150 minutes a week do not lose more weight than those who exercise less. They continue to gain weight, just at a slower pace, he says.

No one is suggesting that people abandon exercise programmes simply because they are not a good way to lose weight.

“The sad truth is there is nothing more beneficial to health than exercise,” Dr Freedhoff says. “When people don’t lose weight with this intervention, then they quit because the one thing they were told it was going to do, it doesn’t do.

“Exercise is the world’s best drug. It’s just not a weight loss drug.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cf9e23c8-4024-11e5-b98b-87c7270955cf.html