MPs are as overweight as the rest of us, according to a survey in the latest issue of the Men's Health Forum's MHF magazine.
Two men in every three are overweight or obese and politicians are much the same with 60% of male MPs saying they felt overweight. Peter Baker, director of the Men's Health Forum said: 'Despite all the good health messages from government, the majority of male politicians are just like most other blokes: they're overweight, they're tempted by unhealthy foods, and they don't exercise enough.'
The survey was carried out by MHF, which is free to MHF members, with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Men's Health, to which the Forum provides the secretariat, in the first week of January.
Perhaps more worrying is that fewer than one in five of the UK's 659 MPs (541 men and 118 women) thought the issue of weight important enough to respond to the Forum's survey. Of the 126 MPs (19%) who did reply, 113 were men.
Lack of exercise was a major concern — both for those who felt they were overweight and those who didn't.
'This is a real indicator of the battle many men face,' said Peter Baker. 'Men are becoming increasingly body-conscious as they are exposed to idealised images in the media, especially men's health and fitness magazines. The pressures on men to look lean and muscular are on the increase — but at the same time men are getting bigger. The proportion of men clinically overweight or obese increased from 57% to 68% in just eight years between 1993 and 2001. Add to that the way men store fat — around their middle — makes them even more vulnerable to heart disease.
The Men's Health Forum believes if the government is to start to tackle the issue of overweight among men it needs to find novel ways to get its health message across to men. The workplace has huge potential as a setting to tackle men's weight problems, for instance. Action is also needed to tackle the 'fat-friendly' environment in which men (and women) now live and work — a sedentary lifestyle combined with a high-fat diet is literally a fatal combination.
Howard Stoate MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Men's Health, said: 'This survey shows that many of my male colleagues need to do more than talk about health if they want to achieve a healthy body weight. The lifestyle of an MP makes it hard to exercise and eat a balanced diet but we have to recognise that obesity is now one of the biggest threats to public health.'
The House of Commons Select Committee on Health is currently investigating obesity and the issue will be prominent in the government's forthcoming White Paper on public health.
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