According to a new worldwide survey, people from the UK and Ireland are more likely to consider themselves overweight than those from anywhere else in Europe, but fewer are taking steps to lose weight.
Some 60% of Britons and 62% of Irish people consider themselves at least ‘a little overweight’, according to the Global Health and Wellness Survey from information and insights company Nielsen.
The study, which polled more than 30,000 Internet respondents in 60 countries, shows that more than half of Europeans consider themselves to be overweight.
Less than half (46%) of Britons surveyed are trying to lose weight compared to 51% three years ago.
Despite being the second most likely people in Europe to think they’re overweight, Britons are only joint 17th when it comes to trying to lose weight among the 32 European countries covered in the survey.
Among Britons trying to lose weight, changing diet (82%) is the most popular method for losing weight (slightly down from 84% three years ago) followed by doing physical exercise (66%, down from 72%).
The percentage taking diet pills/bars/shakes has more than doubled (from 3% to 7%), while taking medicine prescribed by a doctor has doubled (from 2% to 4%).
“Not only are fewer Britons trying to lose weight, it seems they’re slowly becoming increasingly reliant on easier fixes at the expense of harder work such as changing diet and exercise,” comments Nielsen’s UK head of business and retailer insight Mike Watkins.
Among Britons changing their diet, eating less chocolate and sugar (72%) is the most popular tactic followed by cutting down on fats (70%) and eating more natural, fresh foods (53%). Eating smaller portions of the same foods is cited by 43%, while 37% eat less processed food.
Around one-in-10 follow a low carb/high fat diet (9%) or another diet (11%), while 8% use a slimming plan such as Weight Watchers.
Compared to Europeans, Britons are twice as likely to use a slimming plan and 28% more likely to cut down on processed foods, but 40% less likely to follow a low carb/high fat diet to lose weight.
Sugar, salt, artificial additives biggest health factors in purchase decisions.
When asked to rate how important various health attributes are in affecting the foods and products they buy, 31% of UK respondents cited ‘low or sugar free’ as very important followed by ‘low salt/sodium’ (29%), ‘no artificial flavours/colours’ and ‘natural flavours’ (both 28%).
“Britons regard sugar, salt, artificial additives, cholesterol and fat as the biggest health-related evils impacting which products they buy,” says Watkins. “Conversely, natural flavours, being made from fruit or veg, whole grain, fibre and protein are the most important ingredients to encourage purchasing.”
He adds: “Britons, however, are much less likely than Europeans – and people globally, as a whole – to let health attributes of food products affect what they buy. For instance, food being free from genetically-modified organisms is a very important factor to 47% of Europeans in their buying decision – more than twice the number of Britons (22%).”
Among the 27 food health attributes covered in the survey, Britons are most willing to pay a premium price for products that are ‘all natural’, ‘gluten-free’ or organic. Britons are much less likely to pay a premium for healthy attributes in foods than Europeans as a whole.