Obesity - are ads to blame?

June 2003

An international problem

There is considerable concern in many countries about the growth of obesity. It affects people in both industrialised and developing countries, and its rise seems inexorable. It affects all ages, but raises especial anxiety in relation to children, since all the available evidence suggests that a fat child is likely to become a fat (or fatter) adult.

The causes of obesity are complex, and not entirely understood: changes in diet, and increases in total calorific consumption, are clearly one major factor; a decline in physical activity is another; and genetic influences seem important in some cases. But the consequences are clearly identifiable, in a whole series of diseases in later life, notably hypertension, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis and heart disease.