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Obesity costing Britain's economy almost £100bn a year

Henry Dimbleby warns obesity will leave Britain 'sick and impoverished'
Henry Dimbleby warns obesity will leave Britain 'sick and impoverished' - David Hartley

Britain’s obesity problem is costing our economy almost £100 billion a year and will leave us a “sick and impoverished nation”, a damning report has found.

Analysis from the Tony Blair Institute, published by The Times, estimates that the damaging effect on national productivity from excess weight is nine times greater than previously believed.

The cost of obesity is expected to grow by another £10 billion over the next 15 years, according to the report.

The total cost of £98 billion, which includes the £63 billion cost of shorter, unhealthier lives, is equivalent to about 4 per cent of GDP.

Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s former food tsar, has called for ministers to roll out smoking-style restrictions on junk food and turn away from plans to to put millions of overweight people on weight-loss drugs.

Britain will be left a “sick and impoverished nation” without such intervention, he will say in a speech to a Royal Society conference.

Mr Dimbleby is expected to say that the NHS “will suck all the money out of the other public services” while “at the same time, economic growth and tax revenue will stagnate. We will end up both a sick and impoverished nation.”

The government has shelved plans for a 9pm junk food advertising watershed and a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy products until 2025.

Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, has said to give people “help and advice on how to be healthier” in a “way that is not nanny-statish”.

A Department of Health spokesman told The Times it was “taking firm action to tackle obesity”, citing food-labelling guidelines, funding for school sports and healthy food vouchers for disadvantaged families.

Hermione Dace, of the Tony Blair Institute, told the newspaper its analysis showed that “the health of the nation and our economic growth and prosperity depend” on dealing with obesity.

“We need a fresh approach to give people real options, rebalancing the food system in favour of healthy, cost-effective choices and disincentivising profiteering from ultra-processed and junk food.”

It is estimated two thirds of British adults are now overweight or obese, up from half a generation ago, with the biggest increase seen in the heaviest categories.

The average man now weighs 6kg more than in 1993 and the average woman is 5kg heavier.