Obesity warning as report shows nine out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been in countries with high rates of obesity | UK News

Hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided if obesity rates had not been so high, according to the World Obesity Federation.

The death rate from COVID-19 is 10 times higher in countries where 50% or more of the population is overweight, according to the federation.

Its report analysed obesity rates in countries alongside their COVID-19 deaths and found that around 90% of deaths from the disease have occurred in countries with high rates of obesity.

It has been known for months that those who are obese are at higher risk from severe COVID-19 or death from the disease.

This includes the UK, which has the third-highest COVID death rate and the fourth-highest rate of obesity.

The report comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson enlisted one of Britain’s most successful businessmen to lead a pilot scheme that will reward people for cutting their calorie intake.

Sky News reported on Wednesday that ministers have enlisted Sir Keith Mills, founder of the Air Miles and Nectar loyalty programmes, and that the plan would be unveiled on Thursday to coincide with World Obesity Day.

It is estimated that obesity-related illnesses cost the UK £6bn each year, with figures showing that nearly two-thirds of adults in England are either overweight or obese.

The World Obesity Federation report said that 2.2 million out of the 2.5 million global deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity and that those countries with lower obesity levels do not have high death rates.

Author of the report Dr Tim Lobstein, who is a senior policy adviser to the World Obesity Federation and visiting professor at the University of Sydney, said: “We now know that an overweight population is the next pandemic waiting to happen.

“Look at countries like Japan and South Korea where they have very low levels of COVID-19 deaths as well as very low levels of adult obesity.

“They have prioritised public health across a range of measures, including population weight, and it has paid off in the pandemic.

“Governments have been negligent and ignored the economic value of a healthy population at their peril.

“For the last decade they have failed to tackle obesity, despite setting themselves targets at United Nations meetings.

“COVID-19 is only the latest infection exacerbated by weight issues, but the warning signs were there. We have seen it in the past with Mers, H1N1 and other respiratory diseases.”

Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation, said: “The failure to address the root causes of obesity over many decades is clearly responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, said the link between obesity and COVID-19 mortality rates was now “clear and compelling”.

He added: “This report must act as a wake-up call to governments globally.

“Investment in public health and coordinated, international action to tackle the root causes of obesity is one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic. We urge all countries to seize this moment.”



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