Cancer Research UK has produced a report suggesting that obesity is causing more cases of cancers than smoking dose. The report is all over UK and Scottish media, but the Scottish figures are only estimates based on a simple proportion of the UK figures which ignore recent per-reviewed research suggesting that the obesity problem in Scotland is being reduced by Scottish Government action and this in turn casts doubt on their conclusions about cancer here.
TWO studies not based on mere estimates suggest very strongly that the prospects are different in Scotland:
First, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reported in the Independent on 26th May 2018:
‘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.’
Second, 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%].’
‘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).’
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.
This study also attributes credit to Scottish Government policy initiatives:
‘Food available in and around schools has also been a focus of policy aimed at improving children’s diets. Legislation requiring local authorities to ensure schools provide food and drink of an appropriate nutritional standard has been in place since 2007 with accompanying guidance’
‘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 Fund. 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.’