Half-a-stone weight loss could help save thousands of lives
If people who need to trim down lost around half-a-stone in weight then thousands of lives could be saved every year, obesity expert Professor Donal O'Shea has said.
The modest slimming target would have a massive impact in reducing diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Prof O'Shea was speaking at a major think-in on obesity attended by health specialists, Government department officials, the food industry and local authorities.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who convened the gathering at Farmleigh House in Dublin, said the aim was to have a new realistic action plan in 2015 to implement in the coming years. He said that the taskforce report on obesity in 2005 had failed and warned that Ireland was on course to be the most overweight nation in Europe by 2030.
Prof O'Shea said measures such as the overweight losing 3.5kgs to 4kgs would have the benefit of maximum reach across the population. People who are severely obese would need to lose much more weight.
He said he was still in favour of a sugar tax on fizzy drinks as part of a suite of measures and expects evidence from Mexico, where it is in place, to show proof of its benefits in around 18 months.
The minister said a sugar tax was still under consideration, but said the "jury is still out on its effectiveness".
Prof O'Shea welcomed the law on calorie posting and said it pressured food manufacturers to reduce portion sizes.
He also criticised the participation of well-known role models in promoting sugary drinks. However, he praised former Olympic champion Michael Carruth, who was part an outdoor family day in Dublin last Sunday where he taught children how to box.
Meanwhile, gastric bypass operations for severely obese patients are to start again from next month, with 50 surgeries to be done this year.
It is planned to do 80 next year, but there are 250 on the waiting list. Another 1,000 people are waiting up to four years to get an appointment to be seen at his obesity clinic in Dublin.