UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is drawing up plans to put the country on a diet as part of a wider strategy to counter obesity, seen as a major risk factor in those impacted by coronavirus.
Johnson, 56, who is on a slimming regime himself, is expected to outline plans by next month to increase fitness levels across the board after his own hospitalisation due to the deadly virus back in April.
“All the focus and energy is going to be on getting the nation fitter because, as the coronavirus has shown us, it will save lives,” a Department of Health insider with knowledge of the plans told The Sunday Times.
“People have gone to extraordinary lengths to remain safe, including staying at home for the past 12 weeks, so encouraging them to eat more healthily and take more exercise should not be that difficult. This is clearly our moment because if people want to do their bit to beat this virus then losing weight would be the best thing they can do,” the source said.
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The UK’s health department has reportedly presented a series of proposals to No. 10 Downing Street as part of the strategy. They include better access to programmes ranging from family exercise schemes and healthy eating to bariatric surgery, which includes the fitting of gastric bands.
Other possible measures include banning price promotions such as “buy one, get one free” offers and unlimited refills on unhealthy foods and drinks, bringing in legislation to mandate calorie labelling for restaurants, cafés, and takeaways, and increasing the number of outdoor gyms.
The newspaper quoted a Downing Street aide as saying that Johnson was very keen to take a more interventionist approach, despite his previous criticism of the nanny state and past opposition to the sugar tax.
Several experts have highlighted the impact of unhealthy diets and obesity on greater vulnerability to COVID-19.
The elephant in the room is that the baseline general health in many Western populations was already in a horrendous state to begin with. In the UK and US, more than 60 per cent of adults are overweight or obese,” said Dr Aseem Malhotra, a UK-based Professor of Evidence Based Medicine, who has been campaigning on the issue of promoting a healthy diet to combat coronavirus.
“India is particularly vulnerable, having a very high prevalence of lifestyle related diseases. Specifically, conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease are three of the major risk factors for death from COVID-19. This is rooted in excess body fat, a cluster of conditions known as a metabolic syndrome,” he said.
As part of a healthy lifestyle to combat the threat from the deadly virus, experts recommend giving up ultra-processed and packaged foods and swapping refined carbohydrates with wholefoods such as vegetables and fruits.