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More than three million English people are so fat they qualify for obesity surgery, a study warns 

More than three million people in England are so fat they need obesity surgery, a study warns.

Researchers found that one in 14 adults currently qualify for an anti-obesity procedure that can cost between £4,000 and £15,000 a time.

The total bill could set the NHS back by up to £45billion – more than a third of the total health service budget.

The figures suggest previous anti-obesity campaigns have failed to turn the tide on Britain’s expanding waistline.

They come just weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a new drive. This includes curbing buy-one-get-one-free deals on unhealthy foods, banning confectionery displays at checkouts and an end to TV adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm.

The initiative was spurred by Mr Johnson’s experience in intensive care with coronavirus. He admits he was ‘too fat’ before his Covid-19 encounter and studies say overweight victims are at much higher risk of severe complications.

Mr Johnson has since lost around a stone, partly by taking morning runs with his dog Dilyn.

Obesity operations, known as bariatric surgery, restrict how much food the stomach can hold using a gastric band or sleeve, or with a bypass that links the top part of the stomach to the small intestine. 

BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter Dame Jenni Murray says she lost ten stone from a peak of 24 stone thanks to a gastric sleeve

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends the surgery for anyone with a body mass index higher than 40, such as a 5ft 10ins man who weighs 20 stone or a 5ft 6ins woman of 18 stone. 

Surgery is also sanctioned for those with a BMI of 30 to 35 if they have type 2 diabetes. This includes 5ft 10in men of 15 stone or 5ft 6in women of 13.5 stone.

For the study, revealed in a report in the journal Obesity Surgery, doctors at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex and Watford General Hospital, Hertfordshire, used data from the Health Survey for England to calculate that 7.3 per cent of England’s adult population – 3.21million people – qualify for bariatric operations.

But it’s estimated that less than 1 per cent of those actually get one on the NHS – around 6,500 a year – and the team called for greater efforts to reduce stigma around this type of surgery.

Sarah Le Brocq of the charity Obesity UK said: ‘Our European neighbours carry out nearly ten times more bariatric procedures. For people with severe obesity it is a proven treatment option.’

The National Obesity Forum’s Tam Fry said using surgery as a last resort was ‘a huge mistake – studies show it pays for itself within two to three years’.

But nutrition expert Mike Lean of Glasgow University says mass surgery is not the answer.

‘As soon as you have done three million there will be another three million. It could never stop,’ he warned. ‘Instead, we need really effective policies to prevent weight gain, by reducing high-calorie intakes of fast food.’

Obesity operations, known as bariatric surgery, restrict how much food the stomach can hold using a gastric band or sleeve, or with a bypass that links the top part of the stomach to the small intestine. 

BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter Dame Jenni Murray says she lost ten stone from a peak of 24 stone thanks to a gastric sleeve.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends the surgery for anyone with a body mass index higher than 40, such as a 5ft 10ins man who weighs 20 stone or a 5ft 6ins woman of 18 stone. 

Surgery is also sanctioned for those with a BMI of 30 to 35 if they have type 2 diabetes. This includes 5ft 10in men of 15 stone or 5ft 6in women of 13.5 stones. 

For the study, revealed in a report in the journal Obesity Surgery, doctors at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex and Watford General Hospital, Hertfordshire, used data from the Health Survey for England to calculate that 7.3 per cent of England’s adult population – 3.21million people – qualify for bariatric operations.

But it’s estimated that less than 1 per cent of those actually get one on the NHS – around 6,500 a year – and the team called for greater efforts to reduce stigma around this type of surgery. 

Sarah Le Brocq of the charity Obesity UK said: ‘Our European neighbours carry out nearly ten times more bariatric procedures. For people with severe obesity it is a proven treatment option.’

The National Obesity Forum’s Tam Fry said using surgery as a last resort was ‘a huge mistake – studies show it pays for itself within two to three years’.

But nutrition expert Mike Lean of Glasgow University says mass surgery is not the answer.

‘As soon as you have done three million there will be another three million. It could never stop,’ he warned. ‘Instead, we need really effective policies to prevent weight gain, by reducing high-calorie intakes of fast food.’ 

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