Exploring obesity: a Health podcast special

Obesity is not as straightforward as it might seem, and there are many wide-ranging reasons behind it. In this View from 22 special, Spectator Health editor Max Pemberton discusses Britain’s worsening obesity crisis – and what can be done about it – with Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP and journalist, Dr Aaron Parkhurst, a medical anthropologist at University College London and Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020 Health.

How much of a role does gender and ethnicity play in obesity? Does where you live affect your weight? Have modern lifestyles made the issue worse? And is there any correlation between lower income households and obesity?

This podcast was sponsored by 2020 Health.

  • NotUnreasonable

    There are almost no fat people in my town let alone obese. There are certainly no fat children. Yet 15 minutes up the road in the next town half the people are fat or obese.

    Someone clever ought to be able to work out why.

    • notme3

      Any suggestions why??

      • NotUnreasonable

        I imagine it’s a combination of intelligence and upbringing.

        Not over feeding your kids with junk and keeping them active.

        And adults with some pride in their appearance.

  • notme3


  • Jane Wragg

    I’d like to see more research into the idea that eating and drinking certain things can trigger feelings of hunger in some people, e.g. diet colas, bread. This certainly has an effect on me.

  • There is so much wrong with the nanny-state defender on this podcast that I don’t know where to begin. Her presumption of knowledge and authority — when it was government agencies of the West that for four decades told the public to eliminate fat (especially natural saturated fats such as butter and tallow) and load up on wheat — which was ENTIRELY THE WRONG ADVICE — is lazy, unaccountable, and inexcusable.

    Typically for a controlling type (they make great Leftists), she believes that what works well when voluntary will work even better when it’s mandatory. There is no evidence for this: in fact, the gory sad history of Leftist programs proves otherwise. But Matron must be in charge, no matter what.

    Then we have her prejudice about wine consumption. She’s an obvious cheap drunk (one glass a week and she starts feeling woozy, we might presume), and therefore assumes that anyone with greater tolerance is going to h-ll in a basket.

    But what bothers me most, apart from her disregard of history and history’s ignorance of, and disregard for, science (read John Yudkin, Carl Lavie, Nina Teicholz, and Gary Taubes for starters) is her glib and disreputable dismissal of our fundamental freedoms to live, and eat, as we wish. This is a basic human right. That is sinister and it is scary. And it is to be opposed, now and full-on.

  • Gordon Polley

    Having just listened to the podcast, I would like to throw in a couple of comments/observations:
    – it was implied by the more vocal (some may say evangelical) lady that we MUST have more government or ‘structural’ intervention but if 20% of the population are obese, surely that means that 80% are not; is this not evidence of some self regulation?
    – She may counter that the trend is worryingly negative, so even if there is some argument for more government intervention, will someone ask the question about what they want to achieve. I imagine that in any group or population of statistical size, that there will always be a percentage that are ‘unreachable’ or simply don’t want to listen or adhere to the prevailing advice. What percentage of obesity do the interventionist proponents see as achievable in the population and what will it cost to achieve this reduction? I realise that arguments can be made for cost savings too.
    – I am not medically or scientifically qualified but my hunch would be that ‘intervention’ in helping people lead a more balanced lifestyle would be more productive in the long run than heaping more stress on them if they do not eat 5 portions of fruit or veg each day; from the anecdotal evidence that I see around me in my daily life, I would say that primary schools are already trying to address this in their attitude to daily exercise. Could this ‘balance’ be the explanation for other populations around the world having much lower rates of obesity and heart related disease despite apparently higher consumption of ‘bad’ foods, tobacco and alcohol?
    – I would say that our politicians (right or left) are too quick to latch onto one particular area (e.g. alcohol) as if addressing our behaviour in this one area will be some kind of panacea; to me it too often just ends up as expensive tinkering.
    If you are going to help us as a nation then take a bigger and longer term view.