As BBC Scotland scarily headline untested new method to measure obesity, a second research report shows obesity among Scottish children is in decline and is already significantly lower than that in non-Scottish parts of UK with Scottish Government policies once more associated with this progress.
Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reported in the Independent on 26th May 2018 suggested:
‘Under current trends it is predicted that 11 per cent of the population in Wales will be morbidly obese in 2035, roughly 340,000 adults, while Scotland is likely to plateau at about 5 per cent and England will rise to about 8 per cent.’
The researchers offer a surprisingly clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation:
‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’
I appreciate that the trend graph relates to combined male and female obesity, but the table below shows that for other than two groups, the prevalence of obesity in Scottish women is expected to be significantly lower than that in England or Wales and notably much lower for the 15-24-year-olds most likely to have experienced, in schools and colleges, the ‘Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation.’
Table: Predicted % prevalence of obesity
Published three days ago but ignored by the Nomedia, new research findings support the London School findings:
From Growing Up in Scotland: Overweight and Obesity at Age 10:
‘Historic data from the survey shows that the prevalence of overweight [in Scotland] including obesity remained relatively stable between 1998 and 2016, fluctuating between 28% and 33%. However, in recent years levels of obesity have shown a steady decline dropping from 17% in 2014. This is largely due to a decline in obesity amongst boys which have dropped from 20% in 2012 to 12% in 2017 [40%].’ (14)
‘The results are broadly comparable with similar UK research. For example, analysis of data from the Millennium Cohort Study showed that the proportion of healthy, overweight and obese 5-year olds becoming or remaining obese by age 11 were 6%, 32% and 68% respectively (Mead et al, 2016). Comparative figures from analysis of administrative data from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)13 in England were 8%, 43% and 77% (Copley et al, 2017).’ (25)
So, compared to England, 25% fewer healthy 5-year-olds becoming obese by 11 in Scotland. Similarly, 25% fewer overweight 5-year-olds becoming obese and 12% fewer obese 5-year-olds remaining obese.
While the London School research directly attributes credit to Scottish Government policy initiatives, this merely associates them. See:
‘Food available in and around schools has also been a focus of policy aimed at improving children’s diets. Legislation5 requiring local authorities to ensure schools provide food and drink of an appropriate nutritional standard has been in place since 2007 with accompanying guidance’ (17)
‘Progress towards achieving the goal of a more active population has been made through a range of activities in recent years including the implementation of the National Walking Strategy (Scottish Government, 2014c), the Cycling Action Plan (Scottish Government, 2017b), the Active Schools programme8, Community Sports Hubs9 and the Legacy 2014 Physical Activity Fund10. Of particular relevance for children and young people is the Scottish Government’s commitment to expanding the Daily Mile11 to ensure that Scotland becomes the first ‘Daily Mile nation’ with roll out to nurseries, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. Recent research results suggest the Daily Mile is effective at increasing levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), reducing sedentary time, increasing physical fitness and improving body composition.’ (17/18)
The figures given fo the reduction in obesity are fantastic news for Scotland and its population. I guess this is what happens when the government truly backs a scientifically designed programme and supports the health professionals to do their job.
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I was sufficiently intrigued by the reports of childhood obesity being worse in actuality than shown by the current BMI method of measurement, to read some of the literature, and it does seem that actual obesity rates are probably being significantly underestimated generally, throughout the population age range. However, that is not to minimise the achievement that any average reduction in obesity, however measured, is to be welcomed, and of course any underestimation in Scotland’s problem also applies to the non-Scottish parts of the UK too. So, what’s the “Scottish” aspect of the problem? I smell “SNP Bad”.
Incidentally, I’m rather proud of my achievement of having lost 10kg over four months. Though, whether my proportion of body fat is any healthier as a result is anybody’s guess. I sure as hell don’t know, and its my body.
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Well done. I too am impressively trim these days if i do say so myself!
There are several disparate points to be made about this BBC scaremongering article, which, incidentally, has been removed from the website within the past three hours (it is now 12.30pm).
Firstly, it was clear from a swift reading that the content did not match the scary shock horror headline. The data provided come from a different way of measuring obesity and so, direct comparisons with previous data cannot be made. The brief comments from the research team made explicit that they were seeking a, possibly, more nuanced way of measuring obesity, since BMI and waist measurements have had long known inadequacies. As medical staff have known, they provide a fairly quick way of estimating the issue in a fairly large number of cases. Robert Innes, above, makes this point well.
I have a BMI which is well below the ‘overweight’ level, never mind the ‘obese’ level. My waist measurement takes me closer to the ‘overweight’ level. The reason is that, like a fair proportion of the population, I have a genetic predisposition to having a high proportion of my body fat as visceral fat, which is concentrated around the internal organs. Probably, millennia ago, this had survival value. My subcutaneous fat is well below average. My father and paternal grandfather had similar sylph-like figures throughout their lives. My grandfather, as I do, had Type 2 diabetes. BMI or waist measures would not have indicated that we were in ‘risk’ categories. We were not diagnosed until we began displaying the symptoms. So, there is a need for a better measure or range of measures.
Secondly, this gross misuse of statistics was the basis for the BBC phone in this morning, where Kaye Adams gave an introduction which was a reprise of her Tokyo Kaye propaganda from the 2014 referendum campaign. Basically, it is Scotland and Scots are shite and here is more evidence to prove it. It was trumpeted that Scotland’s children are getting even more obese DESPITE efforts to improve things they have FAILED! This was followed by a litany of emails and tweets from people who continued the ‘blame the parents’, ‘no one knows how to cook these days’, ‘spending too much on treats and fancies’, etc. I had to go out and did not hear how the programme developed, but, I heard one caller make a point about the relationship between poverty and obesity and the relatively expensive costs or local availability of fresh food.
Thirdly, as you have demonstrated on so many occasions, these misuses of statistics appear so frequently that it is difficult to reject the implication that the misuse is wilful. These are journalists who have been trained in the kinds of things which Professor Robertson taught in his courses. They KNOW that they are presenting selective data and are purposely misleading.
A parallel can be drawn with the number of politicians who took degrees in PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Cambridge or Oxford. All philosophy courses spend a lot of time pointing out the wide range of fallacies there is and of giving practice in identifying these. As a result, they become expert in being able to DEPLOY fallacies, well disguised, purposely to mislead.
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Being way too kind there Alasdair, they may well be educated to mislead, distort and control the flow information to manipulate public perception, but to my mind they have to be immoral and corrupt to do so. In other words, they are lying ba###rds by inclination.
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Thanks A, Another interesting collection of points.
The negative strategy, using obesity this time round, has left me doubly pissed off. I saw this coming a couple of days ago, headline “huge increase in Scottish obesity”, followed by other obesity scare reports gave the game away, this was an orchestrated attack. The second piss off was missing an attempt to get through to the Kaye Adams phone in. I would have been primed and ready, thanks to this blog site.
As Alasdair states above, you cannot compare the data from two different collection methods, to prove that Scotland is going to hell in an overburdened hand cart. You have to look at the trend, using only one or the other. In any case Prof. Reilly’s method takes 3 to 4 hours, so I doubt that system will be taken up by our cash strapped health services.
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Alan Gordon, you make a good point in your second paragraph. The BMI and waist measurement methods are quick to do and are still useful as screening mechanisms. When I was first diagnosed as diabetic nearly 20 years ago, the consultant at Gartnavel who examined me explained that to me.
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