DESPITE efforts to put the people of Swindon on a healthier path, the town remains the fat capital of Europe with more than 70 per cent of adults described as carrying excess weight.
According to the latest figures released by the local authority, 70.4 per cent of the entire adult population in Swindon has excess weight.
The prevalence of overweight residents is 47.7 per cent, much higher than the 40.8 per cent recorded nationwide or the 40 per cent reported in the South West.
Obesity levels however are in line with the rest of England at 22.6 per cent.
The increasinging obesity levels have led to a resurgence in ‘Victorian illnesses’ in Swindon, such as gout a condition closely linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
In the last year alone hospital admissions for gout, a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood, rose by 28 per cent.
Speaking to the Adver about the rise in reported cases, Dr Lyn Williamson claimed that Swindon’s status as fat capital of Europe was notorious and went a long way to explain the trend in the town.
“Swindon is the fat capital of Europe. Ten or 14 years ago the average BMI was 28/30 and it’s now 30/33,” she said.
“For a majority of people it’s lifestyle-related.
In the Victorian times rich people had gout because they had red meat, wine and rich food, and now unfortunately our population has changed and it’s poorer people that are eating excessively who get it.
“It’s mostly diets of steak, beer, fizzy drinks and sweetened drinks.
Health chiefs also spent £3m alone, or 10 per cent of the prescribing budget, on diabetes drugs in Swindon in the last year – this was mostly to treat type two diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes usually strikes adults and is associated with being overweight and leading less healthy lifestyles.
This is despite various campaigns, all with positive results, to encourage people to take up physical activity and change their eating habits in Swindon.
Between October 2005 and October 2013, the number of Swindon adults participating in the recommended amount of physical activity rose from 19.6 per cent to 25 per cent.
But excess weight levels remain extremely high among the population.
Fiona Dickens, a dietitian and public health programme manager at Swindon Council, said: “Levels of obesity and being overweight are high in Swindon and this is also a growing issue nationally, across Europe and indeed the world. Although our levels are above average, we are by no means exceptional.
“The Active People survey, which gives the most recent local statistics in this area, demonstrates this. Tackling the problem is important, as evidence shows that those who carry excess weight are at higher risk of a number of diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers.
“Providing information and support to people living in Swindon to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is a priority for us and the council invests in a number of services which can help.
“Evidence shows that the best way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to diet and physical activity that can become a part of a daily routine.
“These changes can include things such as such as eating at regular times, for instance not skipping breakfast, eating less and choosing food and drinks that are lower in fat, sugar and alcohol.
“Regular physical activity will not only help control weight, but could also reduce the risk of developing a range of serious illnesses and improve an overall sense of wellbeing.
l For more information about leisure activities and facilities available go to www.leisureinswindon.co.uk.