Inactivity, not calorie consumption, behind rising obesity in the UK


  • The rise in obesity in recent decades is popularly believed to be the result of increased consumption of calories in general and sugar in particular.

  • Campaigners have called for product reformulation, fat taxes and other anti-market policies to reduce calorie consumption at the population level.

  • All the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, salt, fat and calories has been falling in Britain for decades. Per capita sugar consumption has fallen by 16 per cent since 1992 and per capita calorie consumption has fallen by 21 per cent since 1974.

  • Since 2002, the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms. This has coincided with a decline in calorie consumption of 4.1 per cent and a decline in sugar consumption of 7.4 per cent.

  • The rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption.

The publication featured in The Sun, CityAM, BBC Radio 2 and Channel 4 News.

You can view the press release here

2014, Briefing 14:03

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Chris Snowdon Final

Head of Lifestyle Economics, IEA

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove; Iron Fist. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistics. He has authored a number of publications including Sock Puppets, Euro Puppets, The Proof of the Pudding, The Crack Cocaine of Gambling and Free Market Solutions in Health.