Food is a drug, and we have to learn to say no

Our entire relationship with food has to change if we are to tackle the obesity crisis. It’s time to go back to school

Food is one of the most crucial issues of our time. In America, 13 people die every hour from food-related illnesses, but we have no real solution to the obesity problem – the issues are myriad, and too ingrained in all corners of our life and our profit-loving world for any one idea to work. And politicians like simple ideas. So while there should indeed be a tax on sweetened fizzy drinks, that won’t solve the problem on its own. We need a full-scale culture shift, something no government can achieve.

The facts are chilling: one in seven hospital patients in the UK are diabetic; 3.8 million of us have diabetes; one in three is overweight; one in four is clinically obese; and 37% of 11-year-old children are overweight or obese. We are one of the most unhealthy countries in the world. Even moderate obesity will reduce life expectancy by an average of three years. And living with diet-related diseases means heart trouble, cancers, strokes, liver failure, wobbly knees, bad skin and amputation of limbs. It means hospitals spending fortunes to enlarge beds, operating tables, doorways and wheelchairs. Food-related illnesses now kill more people a year than smoking does, and disable an unknown number.

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