16 January 2018

Take 7: Counteracting obesity in children

Clinical Obesity

It’s very difficult not to become overweight when you’ve grown up in a “junk food swamp”, says Professor Bruce Neal.

Both government and industry insist that obesity is an issue of personal responsibility, although there is a good understanding that we have to do more than that.

“Children aren’t getting obese because their parents are slack laggards and their children are sloths and gluttons. That’s not what is happening,” says Professor Neal, senior director of the food policy division at The George Institute for Global Health.

“What’s happening is that these children now are being brought up in an environment that is basically just a swamp of junk food and if you live in a swamp of junk food, it’s very hard not to get fat.

“We have to look at environmental interventions. There are some great interventions by school canteens.

“But we need to go a step further than that. We need advertising restrictions and we need to be thinking about things like sugar taxes, which are highly unpalatable from a business and indeed from a government perspective but are the sorts of things that are likely to promote real change in the long term.”