NEW research claims that Shetland has the fifth highest obesity rate in the UK, with an alarming one in four children having weight problems by the time they start primary school.
Online pharmacy allcures.com has created an interactive map showing how obesity varies across the country.
Its data, collated from official sources such as the Scottish Health Survey, reveals that 33 per cent of adults in Shetland are obese.
NHS Shetland said the figures were taken from a sample of around 300 people who had their body mass index (BMI) measured between 2012 and 2014.
However, the health body said the data was similar to a previous study in the isles and showed that obesity “cannot be ignored” in Shetland.
A person is regarded as obese if they have a BMI of 30 or more, while those with a BMI of over 40 are classed as severely obese.
According to the allcures.com research, the Scottish islands have some of the highest obesity rates in the UK, with the Western Isles leading the pack with 38 per cent of its adults obese.
Glasgow’s figure is 24 per cent, while London averages at around 13 per cent.
Problems with weight in Shetland are not just reserved for adults, however.
NHS Shetland said that over 27 per cent of school children who were in primary one in Shetland during 2014-15 were classed as “at risk of overweight or obesity” due to their BMI.
That figure is greater than the Scottish average and was the highest in Shetland for the last few years.
Susan Laidlaw, consultant in public health with the local health board, said that variations in data do not detract from the fact that many people in Shetland are overweight.
“However we interpret the numbers, and talk about small populations and fluctuating percentages, and possibly question the accuracy of BMI to measure obesity, the reality is that a lot of people in Shetland are overweight or obese, and a lot of our children are heading that way,” she said.
“The more overweight people are, then the more at risk they are of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, mobility problems and some cancers.”
NHS Shetland health improvement adviser Nicola Balfour added that certain aspects of island life can give rise to putting on weight.
“For example, in Shetland we rely heavily on cars to get us from A to B, and often have to do very little walking during our daily activities,” she said.
“A lot of children do not have safe walking and cycling routes to school. Access to fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult at times; but access to sweets and sugary fizzy drinks is rarely a problem.
“However there are some things that we do well in Shetland that should help. For example we have relatively high rates of breastfeeding and large numbers of people that do take part in physical activity and sport.”
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