Health experts today admitted that tough action is needed to tackle Lancashire’s burgeoning weight problems.
Figures from Public Health England shows that 64.7 per cent of adults in Lancashire are now classed as overweight or obese.
In Preston the figure is 56.2 per cent, in South Ribble it is 66.1 per cent, and in Chorley it’s 69.1 per cent.
At the other end of the scale, the NHS estimates around one in 20 people – a quarter of them men – suffer from an eating disorder, such an anorexia or bulimia, which can make them dangerously underweight.
And eating disorder charities warn those official figures are likely to mask the full extent of the problem.
Health problems associated with weight cost the NHS over £5bn each year. People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing type two diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Excess weight can also affect self-esteem and mental health, while around a fifth of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness, according to charity Beat.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, has called for more cash to be spent on tackling Lancashire’s problems.
He said: “The publication of the (Public Health England) figures has to be welcomed because they will give local authorities a better chance of fighting obesity than did 15 years of tackling the epidemic from Westminster.
“County and town halls were handed the poisoned chalice of doing something about the epidemic only last April, but were underfunded for the task.
“The overall figure of 64 per cent for the country is bad enough, but when figures rise to around 80 per cent for some local areas one has to believe that the problem may be insurmountable.
“The projection that 50 per cent of the country could be obese before 2050 could unfortunately come to pass unless really radical steps are taken now by central government to tackle the problem.”
Joseph Clift, policy manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: “These new figures hold a mirror in front of the country’s waistline and it reflects a very unhealthy picture.
“Put simply, too many people weigh too much.
“This should be a catalyst for action at a local and national level. The Westminster government needs to introduce consistent regulation for advertising unhealthy products on TV and online to stop food companies exploiting loopholes.
“Local authorities need to be designing towns and cities in ways which encourage people to be more active, whether that’s by walking or cycling.
“They also need to ensure everyone has access to high quality green spaces where people can play sport or be active.”
Dr Jane Rossini, Cumbria and Lancashire centre director at Public Health England, said: “Public Health England is committed to helping tackle the levels of people who are overweight and obese in Lancashire.
“With our local authorities and NHS partners we are looking at ways to reduce levels of excess weight in all our communities.
“There is no silver bullet to reducing obesity. It is an issue that requires action at national, local, family and individual level. Local authorities are ideally placed to develop co-ordinated action across their departments, services and partner organisations to tackle overweight and obesity in the local population.”
In tomorrow’s Evening Post, we speak to a doctor who helped a 54 stone woman get her life back on track.