Boris Johnson today warned that Britons are ‘significantly fatter’ than other nationalities as he launched an anti-obesity drive.
The PM said the UK had worse problems than the rest of Europe, with only the population of Malta more overweight.
He insisted the issues were costing lives and leaving the the NHS with huge bills, but refused to be drawn on whether he would now back state intervention such as higher taxes, banning BOGOF deals on unhealthy food, and a 9am watershed on junk food ads.
Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Johnson also dismissed ‘complete nonsense’ speculation that he is struggling to recover from the effects of coronavirus, saying that he had lost weight but was not ‘wraith-like’.
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to a contruction site in west London today) said the UK had worse problems than the rest of Europe, with only the population of Malta more overweight
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday he declared he was ‘as fit as a butcher’s dog’ before doing press-ups in his office.
Efforts to crack down on Britons’ excess weight have been given new impetus after it emerged that fat people are more at risk of death and serious ill health from Covid.
Officials are drawing up plans that include greater use of bariatric surgery – such as gastric bands – as part of a wider fitness programme that includes diet advice and family exercise plans.
Other measures being mooted include bans on buy-one-get-one-free deals, free drinks refills in restaurants and mandatory calorie counts on food menus.
In an interview this morning, Mr Johnson admitted that he had taken a ‘very libertarian stance’ in the past on issues such as the sugar tax.
But he stressed that the effects of obesity cannot be ‘ignored’. ‘Compare I’m afraid this wonderful country of ours to other European countries, we are significantly fatter than most others – apart from the Maltese for some reason,’ he said.
‘It is an issue…. Everybody knows that this is a tough one.’
Mr Johnson added: ‘I think it matters and I don’t think politicians can treat is as irrelevant.’
Mr Johnson has been spotted in recent weeks running in London – including at Buckingham Palace, and in an interview with the Mail on Sunday he declared he was ‘as fit as a butcher’s dog’ before doing press-ups in his office.
Bizarrely he appeared this morning to have forgotten about the demonstration of physical prowess.
Mr Johnson, who was admitted to intensive care with the virus, said the experience had given him an ‘even deeper love and admiration for the NHS and everything they can do’.
He said: ‘I’m also conscious that many thousands of people tragically were not so lucky, and my job now is to get our whole country bouncing back to health, building back to health.’
He has been spotted in recent weeks running in London (above) – including at Buckingham Palace after the Queen gave him special permission
Studies have shown that being obese may double the risk of needing hospital treatment for the coronavirus.
British scientists trawled through data for more than 428,000 people who were part of the UK Biobank in May.
Some 340 of those tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital – one of the only places to access a test in the UK – amid the pandemic.
Being overweight or obese increased the risk of ending up in hospital with the killer infection by 1.6-fold and 2.3-fold, respectively.
And for every BMI increase of four-and-a-half units, the risk of dying from COVID-19 rose by about 25 per cent, Glasgow University experts said.
Obesity leads to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both of which are known to make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19.
But extra fat may also lead to inflammation within the body, heavily linked to grave complications. An overproduction of inflammatory markers results in what has been described as a ‘cytokine storm’, which can be deadly for coronavirus patients.
Other scientists have suggested fat cells harbour vital immune cells needed to fight the infection, or make large amounts of a protein used by the virus to latch on to human cells.
The findings uncovered several other risk factors for hospitalisation with COVID-19, including smoking, being of BAME background and sleep apnoea.
Mr Johnson has been spotted running in and aroudn Downing Street in recent weeks, with the Queen opening up the grounds of her London home to help his recovery from coronavirus and improve his fitness.