Obesity in women ‘as dangerous as terror threat

Extraordinary claim by health chief as she uses speech to demand condition is added to list of emergency threats

  • Dame Sally Davies claims obesity poses as big a risk to UK as terrorism
  • She wants obesity crisis in women added to list of public health threats
  • List includes violent extremism, war, flooding and outbreaks of disease
  • Dame Sally warns being overweight affects all stages of women’s lives
  • It may cause them to have higher-risk pregnancies and develop cancer

Obesity poses as big a risk to the nation as terrorism, says the Chief Medical Officer.

Dame Sally Davies wants the obesity crisis in women to be classed alongside flooding and major outbreaks of disease – as well as the threat from violent extremism.

Her extraordinary claim comes as she warns today that being overweight affects all stages of women’s lives – including in the womb.

It may lead them to being teased as teenagers, having higher-risk pregnancies and possibly developing breast cancer or heart disease after the menopause.

‘Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women’s lives and affecting their quality of life,’ she will say.

She will also urge that mothers-to-be should ‘not to eat for two’ because it is fuelling the obesity crisis.

The advice is a ‘myth’ and women who are too fat are not only jeopardising their own health, they also risk storing up problems for their unborn children.

Expectant mothers who are overweight or obese are far more likely to suffer miscarriages, develop dangerously high blood pressure or complications that make them infertile.

Their babies also have a higher risk of becoming obese and there is evidence they may struggle to have their own children when older.

Dame Sally is the country’s first female chief medical officer and today she is publishing a major report focusing specifically on the health issues affecting women.

The report also calls for:

  • Bosses to be more sympathetic about women going through the menopause – and give them time off if needed,
  • Contraception, including implants, to be available to women of all ages, not just teenagers,
  • Doctors and nurses to be trained to spot the signs of domestic and cultural abuse,
  • An annual review of the ‘silent killer’ ovarian cancer amid concerns thousands of patients are dying needlessly,
  • Anorexia and eating disorders patients to be offered more counselling and behaviour therapies on the NHS.

But Dame Sally is most concerned about obesity and in a speech today to launch the report she will call on the Government to add it to its National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

This is an official list of major possible threats to public health which includes terrorism, war, flooding and disease pandemics.

Just over half of British women aged 34 to 44 and nearly two thirds of the over-45s are overweight or obese. The figures are among the highest in Europe.

At a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists conference in Central London today, she will tell midwives and doctors that pregnancy is a key ‘missed opportunity’ where they should intervene.


All doctors and nurses should be trained to spot the signs of domestic and cultural abuse, the Chief Medical Officer has said.

According to Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s levels of violence against women are too high for a ‘civilised society’.

She wants medical staff to undergo compulsory training on how to spot domestic abuse – rather than simply treating bruises – as well as how to sensitively broach the subject.

She also wants them trained to spot ‘honour’-related violence and female genital mutilation. 

In her report on women’s health issues, she says: ‘Women are more likely to be affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence. This impacts on the health of women and their children.’

In a speech today, Dame Sally will also call for bosses to be sympathetic to women going through the menopause. They should encourage them to talk about symptoms and if necessary, take time off work, she will claim.

She will also say women should not ‘suffer in silence’, adding: ‘I want to encourage managers to ensure women feel as comfortable discussing menopausal symptoms as they would any other issues in the workplace.’

She will tell them that, although they risk ‘burdening women with guilt and responsibility’, it is a crucial chance to instruct them to become healthier.

Dame Sally will point out that being very overweight in pregnancy can damage the fertility of the unborn child.

Last night a source close to Dame Sally said she ‘wants to bust the myth once and for all that women should eat for two when pregnant’.

‘A woman’s health whilst she is pregnant also impacts on the health of her children and grandchildren,’ she will say.

Rather than following the conventional advice of ‘eating for two’, expectant mothers should be told to adopt a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables – one focusing on quality, not quantity.

They should also exercise and avoid intoxicants such as cigarettes and alcohol.

Dame Sally will label obesity as the ‘golden thread’ which affects all stages of women’s lives.

‘We need to address the educational and environmental factors that cause obesity and empower women and their families to live healthier lives,’ she will say.

‘In women, obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have.

‘This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility, but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps like eating more healthily and taking more exercise.’

Ministers are due to publish a new obesity strategy in January amid accusations they have failed to tackle the crisis.

Last month a critical report by MPs called for far tougher measures including a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and a 9pm watershed for junk food adverts.

Obesity rates are actually higher in men – 72 per cent of those aged 35 to 44 are at least overweight rising to 80 per cent of the over 45s.

Impact: Dame Sally's claim comes as she warns today that being overweight affects all stages of women’s lives – including in the womb. It may lead them to  having higher-risk pregnancies, she will say (file picture)

Impact: Dame Sally’s claim comes as she warns today that being overweight affects all stages of women’s lives – including in the womb. It may lead them to having higher-risk pregnancies, she will say (file picture)

But Dame Sally is so concerned about women because of the complication risks in pregnancy and the implications for their unborn children.

Professor Nick Finer, of University College London, said: ‘Obesity and its related diseases is now the most pressing health issue to the nation, affecting both men and women that some have predicted will lead to younger generations dying earlier than their parents.

‘Estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the NHS.

‘Elevating the problem of obesity to a national risk could help to address the current laissez faire attitude to this huge angry growing health catastrophe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!