UCL News


UCL in the News: When DID we start getting fat?

6 June 2007

The introduction of the microwave, the birth of the supermarket and the end of the Second World War are among the reasons for the current obesity epidemic, according to experts who will today debate when precisely the nation's waistline began to expand.

The microwave oven will be blamed by Professor Jane Wardle [UCL Epidemiology & Public Health].

She explains: "Population data in the UK show that obesity rates started to rise soon after 1984, and went up steadily at just under one percentage point a year. This same period saw the rapid spread of ownership of microwaves along with the first chilled, ready-meals appearing on supermarket shelves." …

"Most of us, most of the time, match the energy we take in to the energy we expend," she said. "But people vary in their sensitivity to internal satiety [fullness] signals, and those with low satiety sensitivity can easily slip into positive energy balance.

"In fact, most obese people don't overeat by a lot, but an energy excess of only 70kcals a day - no more than a ginger biscuit - adds up to 70lbs of extra weight in 10 years; enough to turn a slim 25 year old into an obese 35 year old."

Professor Wardle will discuss her view with Dr Susan Jebb, Professor Ken Fox, and Professor Tim Lang at the Cheltenham Science Festival today. …

Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'