01/23/2013 06:26 pm ET

Anna Soubry, British Public Health Minister, Says She Can Spot Poor People Based On Weight

Britain’s public health minister says she easily can spot a poor person by the amount of fat on her body.

“When I go to my constituency, in fact when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight,” Anna Soubry told the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday. “Obviously, not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds but that’s where the propensity lies.”

Soubry made the strikingly blunt comments after warning food manufacturers to cut the amount of fat, sugar and salt in their products, according to the paper. She credited the rise in obesity among young people in her country to a number of factors, and said that poor children are particularly at risk because their parents buy them cheap junk food.

While Soubry’s comments may seem insensitive to some, recent figures back up her sobering claims.

Last month, the government found that that 24.3 percent of the “most deprived” 11 year-olds in England were obese, compared with just 13.7 percent of those from the wealthiest households, according to the Telegraph.

But the link between struggling households and obesity isn’t secluded to England.

According to the UN's 2012 State of Food Insecurity in the World report, the world now faces a “double burden” of undernourishment and obesity.

The percentage of hungry people in developing countries dropped to less than 15 percent between 2010 and 2012, from more than 23 percent between 1990 to 1992, according to the report.

But overweight and obesity are on the rise among low- and middle-income countries. Close to 35 million overweight children are living in developing countries and 8 million in developed countries, according to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May.

WHO agrees with Soubry’s sentiment that an increased intake of caloric foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars -- but low in nutrients -- are primarily to blame for the rise in obesity. However, the organization disagrees that being overweight is a startling signal to a child’s economic status.

“It is not uncommon,” WHO writes, “to find under-nutrition and obesity existing side-by-side, within the same country, the same community and the same household.”



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