13 million adults in the UK are obese, amid doubling in weight problems

Laura Donnelly
Cases increased by almost one quarter in just a year - Getty Images Contributor

THE NHS could collapse under the strain of Britain’s weight problem, experts have warned, as research shows that 13 million adults are now classed as obese. 

A new report warns of a doubling in obesity levels in two decades, with record numbers being treated for Type 2 diabetes. 

It follows warnings that the numbers being treated in hospital for obesity-related conditions have risen by almost one quarter in just one year. 

The head of the NHS has warned that the “startling” trends could cut short thousands of lives. 

Today’s report shows that the number of adults in England who are obese has gone from 6.9 million in 1997 to around 13 million in 2017. 

The analysis, by Diabetes UK, warns that 29 per cent of adults, and 20 per cent of children leaving primary school are obese. 

Obesity is the most significant driver for new cases of type two diabetes, accounting for up to 85 per cent of risk. 

The condition can cause serious health complications, which can lead to blindness and amputations. 

One in ten patients admitted to hospital are suffering from the condition. 

And an eighth of all NHS drug spending is now devoted to treatment of the condition, with a 220 per cent rise in the bill for antidiabetes medication in the last decade.

Total spending on devices and drugs for the condition have now reached more than £1bn a year, official figures show.

The charity Diabetes UK said Britain was facing an "urgent public health crisis".

An estimated 2.85 million people are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England, and a further 850,000 have the condition but are unaware of it.

Charity chief executive Chris Askew said: "We're facing an urgent public health problem. Tackling this requires ambitious and sustained action from national governments, across sectors and departments. That's because, right now, it's hard to be healthy.

"We will keep challenging government and industry to put in place regulations and practices that make healthy choices easier for everyone, including making food and drinks healthier, and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

"Without action, more people will develop Type 2 and gestational diabetes - but with more awareness, government action and the right investment and support, we can change this."

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: “Successive governments since the turn of the century have pledged to cut obesity to 2000 levels and all have failed catastrophically.”

He said there was “scant chance” that ambitions to halve childhood obesity by 2030 would be achieved, accusing politicians of failing to prioritise the issue. 

“Unless it is tackled, and quickly, the NHS could itself collapse under the mounting costs required to deal with these conditions,” he said. 

The data for the report was taken from the Health Survey for England, which found that in 2017, two in three adults in England were overweight or obese.

Some 40 per cent of men where overweight while a further 27 per cent were obese.

Meanwhile, 31 per cent of women were overweight and a further 30 per cent were obese.

NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: "Obesity is a dangerous public health threat that is already leading to a string of serious illnesses, including 13 types of cancer, heart attacks and strokes, with these figures bringing another stark reminder of the scale of the obesity crisis.

"Over 400,000 people have been offered a place on the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme to prevent those at risk from developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place."