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(Pp 258; £29.99.) Oxford: Blackwell Science, 1999. ISBN 0-632-05298-8.
The report of the British Nutrition Foundation Task Force on obesity is a very important document. It is a pity therefore that it is so boring to dip into and read. Certain of the importance of this report, and mindful of my responsibilities to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, I brought this book with me on holiday. I tried to read it, oh yes I did. Every attempt was soon met with a gradual drooping of the eyelids and then blessed sleep in the sunshine. The presentation, with few illustrations, was the problem, but this, however, is my only criticism.
This multi-author report is chaired by Professor Garrow, an expert in the field of obesity, and the members and contributors comprise some of the most important workers on obesity in the United Kingdom. It is very timely, given that the prevalence of obesity in this country in 1995 (body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2) had risen to 13% of men and 16% of women, and over half the population are now overweight (body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2 but less than 30 kg/m2) or obese. The report is extremely up to date, covering such areas as the new genetics of obesity (leptin and human obesity syndromes) and new treatments such as use of the pancreatic lipase inhibitor Orlistat. The references are relevant, and go right up to 1998. Every aspect of obesity, from epidemiology and health risks through clinical assessment, aetiology, prevention, treatment, and suggestions for further research are covered. The book's target audience is really all of us— those that it defines as communicators, including government, health and local authorities, health care professionals, researchers, the food industry, and journalists. Traditionally, exercise has not been given priority in obesity treatment programmes or commercial weight loss programmes. However, the prevalence of obesity is increasing in our population despite the fact that the total energy intake of the population has actually fallen for the last 25 years. This is totally due to an increase in the sedentary nature of the population, with lifestyle related inactivity (resulting from increased availability of labour saving technology) and fewer people participating in active exercise.
“Lose weight fast” diets are exposed for their non-physiological and ineffective approach. An optimal treatment combining diet, physical activity, and behavioural modification will enable weight loss maintenance to continue after an achievable goal, such as loss of 10% of weight, has been achieved.
The book ends with two very good sections. The first is recommendations from the Task Force—to prevent the increasing prevalence of obesity, to change the national diet to lower the consumption of energy dense food, to change the national lifestyle to have a higher level of physical activity, and lastly to institute strategies nationally for both prevention and treatment of obesity. The second contains answers to questions from medical journalists, which are in fact questions that many of the population would ask us.
To summarise, would I want to buy this book personally? No, because it does not excite me enough to grab some of the limited space on my shelves. Would I want to have it to hand? Yes, Yes, Yes. This is a definitive text on obesity. Am I glad I got to keep it for doing this review? Yes, I am, thank you.
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