Obesity, diet and weight loss.

Over 3 in 5 adults (63% of adult population1) are at an increased risk from serious diseases and becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 as a result of being overweight or living with obesity.

Most people gain weight gradually over a long period of time and modern life doesn’t always make it easy

Extra weight puts pressure on our bodies, making it harder for us to fight against diseases, including COVID-19




Heart Disease

  • People with certain metabolic risk factors who are living with obesity are two and a half times as likely to develop heart disease as healthy people measured a ‘healthy weight’. But those who are living with obesity without these other risk factors still have a 28% increased risk of heart disease compared with healthy people measured a ‘healthy weight’i.


  • Losing just 5% of your body weight can seriously reduce the chance of heart disease and could make all the difference in preventing treatable heart conditionsii


Compared to people with a healthy weight, being overweight doubles your chances of having at least two of the following; stroke, heart attack or type 2 diabetesiii

Cancer (colon, liver, pancreas, kidney)

  • Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK with more than 1 in 20 cancer cases caused by excess weightiv

Ref: Cancer Research UK (2018) Does obesity cause cancer? Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/obesity-weight-andcancer/does-obesity-cause-cancer#Obesityrefs0

Type 2 diabetes

  • A man living with obesity is five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, than a man who is not living with obesity4.
  • A woman living with obesity is almost 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, than a woman who is not living with obesityv.
  • Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through lifestyle changesvi.

Back and joint pain

  • Seven in 10 people who report living with a long-term musculoskeletal problem are either living with overweight or obesityvii

Ref: 8 Public Health England (2019) Guidance: Musculoskeletal Health: applying All Our Health. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/musculoskeletalhealth-applying-all-our-health/musculoskeletal-health-applying-all-our-health



Overweight and obesity stats


  • Current evidence suggests that COVID-19 patients living with obesity, and in particular severe obesity, may be more likely to be admitted to intensive care; require advanced treatment; and potentially have poorer outcomes, including greater risk of mortalityviii,ix.
  • An NHS England and Improvement journal article on diabetes and COVID-19 found that the number of deaths of people with type 2 diabetes in England have more than doubled during the COVID-19 epidemicx.

   Nutrition stats   

  • Mean intakes of saturated fat (for example 12.3% total energy in adults 19-64 years) and free sugars (for example 12.3% total energy in children aged 11 to 18 years) exceeded maximum recommendations in all age groups21
  • Mean fibre intake was below recommendations in all age and sex groups (4% of children aged 11 to 18 years and 9% of adults met the recommendation)21.  
  • There was evidence of low intakes of some micronutrients including vitamin A, calcium, iron and folate particularly in girls aged 11-18 years but also in boys in the same age group and women 19-64 years.  Analysis of long term time trends in vitamin A, folate and iron found a decline in intakes in most age groups. There was evidence of low levels of blood folate and vitamin D and there has been a long term decline in blood folate levels. 
  • Adults aged 19 to 64 years consumed on average 4.3 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, older adults aged 65 to 74 years 4.5 portions, older adults aged 75 years and over 3.9 portions, and children aged 11 to 18 years 2.9 portions per day. Thirty-three per cent of adults, 40% of older adults aged 65 to 74 years, 27% of older adults aged 75 years and over and 12% of 11 to 18 year olds met the 5 A Day recommendation.  

Mental health

  • Overweight and obesity are also associated with poor mental health outcomes including depression, anxiety, lowered mood, low self-esteem, poorer quality of life, poor body image and disordered eating behaviour.
  • People with excess weight may experience higher levels of depression

Ref: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/2018



• New Better Health campaign offers free support and guidance to those working towards a healthier weight
• Over 3 in 5 adults (63% of adult population1) are at an increased risk from serious diseases and becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 as a result of being overweight
• The benefits of losing weight brought to life through a unique look inside the body and include preventing up to 12 types of cancers and preventing chronic back pain

A new Better Health marketing campaign has been launched today to help people prevent risks of developing serious illness and help reduce the risk of being hospitalised with COVID-19.

Better Health is working in partnership with 15 weight management and physical activity partners who are providing both free and discounted offers and the website will also signpost to local weight management support.

From reducing the risk of serious diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and up to 12 types of cancer, to lowering the chances of being hospitalised with COVID-19, the multimedia campaign highlights the serious health conditions which could be prevented by losing excess weight and offers free support and guidance to achieve this goal.

It is estimated that over 3 in 5 adults1 are at an increased risk from serious diseases as a result of being overweight. Losing just 5% of body weight can seriously reduce the chance of heart disease and could make all the difference in preventing treatable heart conditions2.

The new campaign highlights six benefits that could have a lasting impact on a person’s health by being a healthier weight:

1. Decreased risk of common cancers (colon, liver, pancreas, kidney)
2. Lowered risk of increased blood pressure
3. Reduced risk of heart disease
4. Less risk of developing diabetes
5. Less strain from chronic back & joint pain
6. Decreased risk of being hospitalised or becoming seriously ill with COVID-19

The benefits have been brought to life in a unique way, in a full body x-ray animation providing a window into the body, highlighting six key health risks that can be reduced if excess weight is lost.

GP and TV Doctor, Dr Hillary Jones said:

“These six benefits highlight the impact of carrying excess weight, and the range of benefits that can be achieved by reducing your weight. Small changes every day can help you lose weight and feel healthier.

“With Better Health, there are a variety of free NHS endorsed apps, resources and online tools to help people introduce simple changes that will help them eat better and get active this new year, including the NHS Weight Loss Plan, Couch to 5K and Active 10 apps.”

Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said:

“The Better Health campaign returns today, focusing on improving adults’ health and helping them get to a healthier weight.

“January is a great time of the year for making resolutions and I hope that people can use this as a kick start moment to be more active and eat healthier – especially when losing body weight can have such a positive impact on our health, including reducing the chance of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer and joint lead for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy said:

“The New Year is a great time to make some healthy changes.

“The Better Health campaign outlines the health benefits of losing weight and gives people the tools and resources to make small changes to improve their health.”

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy at the British Liver Trust said:

“Obesity is a public health emergency and urgent action to tackle it is required to reduce the prevalence of fatty liver disease and other serious health conditions.

“By 2030, experts predict that non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NALFD) will become the leading cause of liver disease in the UK. Liver damage develops silently with no signs or symptoms and people often don’t realise they have a problem until it is too late. Around one in five of us are already likely to have the early stages of fatty liver disease and many people are unaware that excess weight is a significant risk factor in this’

“The British Liver Trust is proud to support the Better Health campaign which will help us all to make better choices when it comes to what we eat and drink as well as encouraging us to become more active.”

Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said:

“There are many factors that can increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, such as age, family history and ethnicity. But research shows living with obesity is the single greatest risk factor, accounting for about 80-85% of your risk of developing the condition.

“The number of people living with obesity is rising and, with an estimated 13.6 million people in the UK at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, it has never been more vital to support those who are working towards a healthier weight. The Better Health campaign is an important part of the work being done to give people that support, while raising awareness of the benefits of losing weight.

“For more information about type 2 diabetes visit diabetes.org.uk.”

Dr Aisling McMahon, Executive director: research, innovation and policy at Kidney Research UK, said:

“Being overweight or obese can significantly increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure both of which are leading causes of kidney disease. In fact, research we funded in partnership with the Medical Research Council has also shown that obesity itself increases the risk of developing kidney disease. With three million people in the UK already living with kidney disease and knowing that levels of obesity are on the increase, this figure could be set to rise rapidly.

Campaigns, like Better Health, are so important to support weight management and healthy lifestyles to protect our kidney health, and there are a number of free resources to get us started.”

Better Health has lots of free tips and tools to help people get started if they want to lose weight, eat better or get active; and the site can help you find additional weight loss support. Search ‘Better Health’.

Helpful apps to download

Weight Loss:

  • NHS Weight Loss Plan app
  • BMI Calculator
  • NHS Easy Meals app

Get more active:

  • NHS Couch to 5K app
  • NHS Active 10 app

Reduce alcohol intake:

  • NHS Drink Free Days app


All the above apps are free and can be downloaded via the App Store or Google Play.