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Society’s poorest ‘most likely to be obese’

A report published in the 'European Health Journal' found that the poorest in society were most likely to be obese.

The findings contradict the common perception of poverty illustrated by a famished young child and of obese people as self-indulgent and lazy.

In countries such as Ethiopia, the cheapest foods are the least calorific and so the poor systematically lack access to energy-rich foods, and have a higher chance of malnourishment and starvation. By contrast, in Britain the cheapest foods are the most calorie-dense so the poor here are more at risk from obesity.

Limited food choices promoting unhealthy lifestyles

Additionally, in the more deprived areas of Britain there are fewer outlets offering healthy foods, and healthier food is more expensive in these areas than in less deprived areas. This fundamentally limits the food choices that poor people can make, thereby promoting unhealthy lifestyles, and, ultimately, obesity.

The article also argued that obesity often occurs in people from less wealthy backgrounds because of ‘food insecurity’, or a lack of regular, dependable access to food. Not knowing where or when their next meal is going to come from, many poorer people will over-consume food when it is available. This can become a cycle of over-consumption based on insecurity which can ultimately lead to obesity.

"The decisions the poorer in our society are forced to make when it comes to choosing what food to eat need addressing urgently if we are to curb the growing obesity and associated Type 2 diabetes epidemic that currently exists in the UK", Cathy Moulton, Diabetes UK Care Advisor, said.

Challenge public attitude

“We need to challenge the public’s attitude towards overweight and obese people, and give equal attention to both the individual’s responsibilities and the responsibilities of political and business leaders.”

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