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Expert Says 'Eating For Two' While Pregnant Is Dangerous

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Photographed by Ben Ritter
The chief medical officer has released a report that aims to put to rest the myth that women should ‘eat for two’ when pregnant. Prof Sally Davies says that obesity is not only endangering women but also their unborn children.

Davies warned that of all the possible threats to women’s health, obesity was the most pressing and potentially the most dangerous. Children born to obese parents are more susceptible to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure and are more likely to be still born.

“In women, obesity can affect the outcomes of any pregnancies they have and the health of any future children they may have,” said Davies. “This is a difficult message to convey, as it risks burdening women with guilt and responsibility, but I believe that it can also empower women to take positive steps like eating more healthily and taking more exercise. It is never too late to take action for a healthier lifestyle – for you and your family.” She advised that when pregnant, adding a healthy diet with fruit and vegetables and avoiding alcohol was important.

However, Davies was keen to emphasis that it’s not just a matter of individual responsibility but that the results of her annual report should place a large impetus on the government to react. In England in 2013, 56.4% of women aged 34-44 and 62% of women aged 45-54 were classified as overweight or obese.

The first of her 17 recommendations were aimed at the government including obesity in its national risk planning. “Obesity has to be a national priority,” says Davies. “Action is required across all of society to prevent obesity and its associated problems from shortening women’s lives and affecting their quality of life. We need to address the educational and environmental factors that cause obesity and empower women and their families to live healthier lives.”

Davies told the BBC that the statistics are so pressing that the food industry needed to do more or it should face a sugar tax – a movement supported by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and many health and medical organisations.

Davies goes on to argue that eating disorders are not being adequately addressed by the NHS and that everyone with bulimia or anorexia, for example, should be allowed access to a new and enhanced form of psychological therapy, called CBT-E, which is specifically designed to treat eating disorders. Lorna Garner, chief operating officer of the eating disorder charity Beat was delighted with Davies’ suggestions, remarking that her recommendations “will have a dramatic and positive impact on a very large proportion of the individuals diagnosed with eating disorders”, which stands at an estimated 725,000 people in the UK.

Among her other suggestions were improved education for medical staff to help them identify abuse or domestic violence, improved and increased physical and sexual health lessons for children at school, and a national audit of results from ovarian cancer surgery to improve survival rates.
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