BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Breakfast  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Breakfast Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 13:03 GMT
Getting heavy
Breakfast asks this week why are we "getting heavy"? Is it because we like our calorie laden food just a little bit too much? Or are there other forces at play? Can we blame the advertisers? What about the food manufacturers? Should the Government do something about it? or would that be too interfering?

What do you think? Breakfast's Wednesday forum was your chance to join the Breakfast debate.

We talked to Dr Wendy Doyle from the British Dietetic Association, and to a teenager who has had a successful summer at a fat camp. We also spoke to a woman who has battled to lose weight.

  • Join the debate. Should we be told what to eat? Click here to go straight to our e-mail form

  • On Tuesday we asked how do we get the message across that healthy eating is good for our children?

  • On Monday Breakfast's Graham Satchell went to Finland to see if their campaign might work here....Three-quarters of the UK population could be overweight within the next 10-15 years, top experts have warned.

    Obesity already costs the economy 2bn a year, and kills 30,000 people a year prematurely, according to the National Audit Office.

    Read on for Graham Satchell's postcard from Finland.

    It's one of the strangest things I've seen. It was pitch black, a chilly minus 9 and in front of me a group of steaming Fins were heading for a small hole in a frozen lake in nothing more than skimpy swimming costumes. The members of the Polar Bear club do this every night.

    Why ?

    Eva one of the swimmers tells me it makes her feel relaxed and its good for her circulation.

    I wasn't convinced. I was absolutely freezing in my four layers, hat, scarf and gloves.

    But health is now important to the Fins.

    The Polar Bear club has more than a thousand members. Not bad for a small town like Joensuu with a population of just 51,000.

    I'd come to this part of Finland near the border with Russia because it has an interesting history. In the 1970's it was the heart attack capital of the world. Men regularly died in their early forties. The people smoked too much, drank too much and had a terrible fatty diet.

    Since then the Fins have turned things round. Deaths from heart disease have gone down an astonishing 74 per cent. I'd come to find out how they'd done it.

    There were a few problems though. My Finnish stretches to little more than Mikka Hakkinen and my cameraman - a wonderful man called Raimo with a mischievous smile - spoke virtually no English. How we got anything done I'm still not sure.

    The North Karelia Project started in Joensuu in 1972. With money from the government it worked with community groups educating local people about diet. It was an uphill struggle. Butter, sausages, salted bread were staples of the Finnish diet. But gradually the public came on board. An influential Housewives association held "Long Life Parties". In the end it was a matter of life and death.

    The state has played a big role. It banned smoking in public places, taxes raised from cigarettes is ring fenced and used for health prevention. It's also given money to farmers.

    Just outside Joensuu I met Eira and Joni. Like most of their neighbours they had been diary farmers all their lives. But ten years ago with help from the government they converted their farm to grow berries. Now they have a mix of strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants for breakfast every morning.

    Can we learn from the Finnish experience ? Maybe - we certainly have similar problems with obesity and heart disease. But Finland is a very different country - income tax runs at 48 per cent - the state plays a big part in people's lives. How would we respond to being told what to eat - I'm not sure.

    As I left Joensuu, Raimo gave me a wooden flask. It was a traditional Finnish gift meant to hold vodka. Maybe he thought I needed it after the cold and our language difficulties.

    "Not very healthy" I said rather ungratefully. He gave me another wicked smile and disappeared into the snow.


    To have your say, e-mail us at

    Send us your comments:

    Your E-mail Address:


    Commenting on:


  • Home
    When we are on air
    Recent forums
    Programme archive
    Studio tour
    Today's information
    Contact us
    Your comments
    See also:

    12 Sep 02 | Education
    09 Sep 02 | Leicester 2002
    03 Sep 02 | Health
    30 Aug 02 | Health

    E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Breakfast stories

    © BBC ^^ Back to top

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
    South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
    Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |