Less than two in five adults in the Midlands are aware weight loss could reduce risk of Type-2 diabetes

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New research conducted by The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan, which surveyed over 2,000 UK adults*, reveals that most of the UK is woefully unaware of the connection between weight and health – with the Midlands demonstrating a particularly large knowledge gap.

The 2023 Weight of the Nation report reveals the shocking finding that 59 per cent of adults in the Midlands do not know that losing weight could reduce their risk of Type-2 diabetes, exceeding the national average of 57 per cent. This figure rises even further for the city of Birmingham, where a staggering 63 per cent of adults don’t know the connection between the condition and excess weight. Diabetes currently costs the NHS £1.5m an hour[1] and impacts 4.3 million people[2], making reducing its prevalence a top priority for the nation.

The research also makes some startling discoveries about obesity and mental health, and the region’s struggle to afford the pursuit of weight loss.

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Adults in the Midlands do not understand the links between weight and illness, despite high rates of obesity

Flay lay of scale and weightsFlay lay of scale and weights
Flay lay of scale and weights

According to the most recent government statistics on obesity, the Midlands is in a tight battle against the North to be crowned the UK’s most overweight region[3]. Looking at the data by local authority, the Staffordshire borough of Tamworth is home to the third-largest population of overweight and obese adults in the UK, at 74.9 per cent. The urgent need for the region to slim down makes the new survey data even more concerning.

In addition to the alarming finding that only 41 per cent of people in the Midlands know losing weight could reduce their chances of being diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, the survey shows that only 35 per cent are aware that weight loss could reduce their chances of suffering a stroke.

Compounding the worrying lack of knowledge about the connection between weight and physical health is the Midlands’ obliviousness to the links between weight and mental health. Less than one-third (31 per cent) of those surveyed in the region were aware that losing weight could reduce their chances of suffering with their mental health.

Being overweight is hitting mental health hard in the Midlands

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Unfortunately, this is already harming the mental and emotional well-being of people in the region. Almost half (48 per cent) of those who suffer from weight-related health conditions - both physical and mental - say it has impacted their mental health. 42 per cent of those suffering worry what others think of them, while 36 per cent feel alone and isolated as a result of their condition(s).

In Nottingham, the connection between weight and mental health is especially stark. 67 per cent of people from the city who are struggling with weight-related conditions feel depressed as a result – proportionally, this is nearly double the national figure (38 per cent).

Meanwhile in Birmingham, more than one in five (21 per cent) of those with weight-related conditions think it contributes to them being single, indicating that being overweight can contribute to a negative cycle of self-perception.

The cost of living crisis is putting sustainable weight loss further out of reach

One-quarter (25 per cent) of people living in the Midlands have been advised to eat healthier by their doctor – in Nottingham specifically, this rises to 30 per cent of people.

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But for those who are keen to embrace this advice and get their health back on track, the road isn’t a smooth one. Rising costs are putting healthier lifestyles particularly far down the priority list for people in the Midlands.

The cost of living is the most commonly cited barrier to weight loss for those surveyed in the East Midlands (27 per cent). In the West Midlands, the biggest barrier is gyms being too expensive (27 per cent), painting a similar picture. More than one in ten (11 per cent) people surveyed in Birmingham said they’ve cancelled their gym membership or fitness classes to help them cope with the rising cost of living.

As exercise regimes slip, healthy eating may also be off the cards. Almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed in the Midlands say they’re cutting back their food bills as a result of the cost of living crisis. They may be turning to cheaper, but less nutritious options as a means to save money. That’s higher than the UK-wide average of 43 per cent.

The Midlands is not giving up the pursuit of weight loss

Despite the number of barriers they face, it seems residents of the Midlands are not ready to throw in the towel when it comes to improving their diet and well-being. 63 per cent of people in the region plan to lose weight in 2024 – in Birmingham specifically, that figure rose to 65 per cent.

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However, the East Midlands demonstrates more perseverance when it comes to weight loss - the most common time people tend to stick to a diet was reported as 4-6 months in this part of the region (13 per cent), compared to only one to two months in the West Midlands (13 per cent).

More education and support networks needed, says expert

Mark Gilbert, Nutritionist at The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan said of the research findings:

“It is quite shocking to discover that so many UK adults are not aware of the clear and well-established links between weight, Type-2 diabetes and a range of other serious health problems.

According to NHS data, almost three-quarters of people aged 45 to 74 in England are now overweight or obese. It’s never been more vital to raise awareness and understanding of the links between weight, diet, and mental and physical health so we can turn this trend around and create a healthier future.

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This year, I hope to see the public engage more with the risks of diabetes and the lifestyle changes they can make to reduce them. The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan can not only reverse diabetes but can also reduce risk factors for a host of other diseases and improve quality of life.”