MORE than half of Bolton’s population is now overweight or obese - but is enough being done to help people struggling with their weight?
Data released by Public Health England shows 60.1 per cent of adults in Bolton are living with “excess weight” — meaning a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25.
But it is not just adults — 20.7 per cent of children in Year Six in Bolton primary schools are also battling obesity against a national average of 19 per cent.
Bolton is by no means the only town in the UK “getting fatter” — it has one of the lowest rates compared to other boroughs in Greater Manchester.
And the rate among children has dropped in the past year thanks to a range of council and NHS programmes.
But there is no doubting the latest figures are a concern for health chiefs.
One obesity expert has gone a step further and is calling for a revolution in the way obesity is treated in the NHS.
Brian Newman is a consultant surgeon who runs Diet UK at Newlands Medical Centre, Heaton, and says he has seen a dramatic increase in the number of morbidly obese people in Bolton.
Mr Newman says the town in the grip of an obesity crisis and that a new approach is needed to tackle the problem.
Dr Newman — a former surgeon at the Royal Bolton Hospital — said: “I am not surprised by the latest figures at all.
“I have been working with bariatric medicine for more than 30 years and during that time I have seen a steady progression in obesity in Bolton during that time.
“The problem is that this problem is happening now. It’s like a pyramid where the NHS is spending millions on the morbidly obese people at the top with things like bariatric surgery, with the overweight people at the bottom of pyramid well on their way to becoming obese.
“Not only that, doctors and nurses have not been trained properly in the management of obesity which means for years people have not been getting the appropriate dietary advice.
“Now the NHS is having to deal with the end results of obesity such as type two diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.”
Mr Newman designed the first gastric balloon and was one of the first surgeons in Bolton to carry out bariatric surgery — weight loss surgery.
However, he decided to stop performing the procedures for ethical reasons on the grounds that surgery is not always appropriate for obese patients.
Last week an inquest in Bolton heard how a woman died five years after having gastric bypass surgery that led her to lose 14 stone.
Elise Ann Hedgecock, aged 35, died at her home in Dagmar Street, Walkden, on November 19, last year after suffering from peritonitus — an inflammation of the tissue which lines the inside of the abdomen.
Foul play was ruled out by the court, but the coroner did conclude Miss Hedgecock’s death was brought on by a perforated ulcer — thought to have been a delayed complication of the surgery she underwent in 2008.
Complications such as this one are one of the reasons Mr Newman stopped as a surgeon.
He added: “Death is the main complication of bariatric surgery and people need to be aware of that. Gastric balloons, bypasses, bands — these are all gimmicks that can only help a small number of people. Surgery should be a last resort for the morbidly obese.”
When it comes to diet and obesity, Mr Newman argues that sugar is the enemy, particularly when dealing with obesity in children and adolescents.
This has been recognised nationally with campaign group Action on Sugar calling the food industry and the Government to reduce the amount of sugar in processed foods.
“The food industry has a lot to answer for,” added Mr Newman.
“The problem is that children become addicted to sugar from a very young age — even when they are babies. Formula milk and ready-made baby food is absolutely full of sugar and that’s where the addiction begins.
“And that’s what you’re dealing with when it comes to obesity — an addiction to food — and that’s what we must look at treating.
“What people don’t realise is that there’s sugar in carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta. Even fruits such as strawberries and melon are full of sugar.”
NHS GP surgeries currently use a “pathway” for patients battling weight problems with a BMI over 40.
GPs can then refer the patient to the specialist weight management service through Bolton’s specialist obesity dietician. Only then are patients considered for weight loss surgery.
Public health teams in Bolton also run preventative programmes across the borough.
For more information about Public Health Bolton’s programmes, go to: getactivebolton.co.uk.