Glasgow Masterchef's Gary Maclean Backs Obesity and Cancer Awareness Week

10 October 2017

Masterchef: The Professionals 2016 winner Gary Maclean was served up an unsavoury dish in Glasgow yesterday – a large lump of ‘body fat’ on a silver platter of doughnuts.

Highlighting the unpalatable consequences of supermarket multi-buy offers on junk food and drink, the weighty plate was served up to talented chef Gary in support of Obesity and Cancer Awareness Week, a new joint initiative by Cancer Research UK and Obesity Action Scotland.

Last week’s Scottish Health Survey showed that 65% of adults (16+) were overweight or obese in 2016. 29% of children were at risk of being overweight or obese.*

Obesity is linked to 13 different types of cancer and is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, after smoking.

Now Cancer Research UK and Obesity Action Scotland are demanding strong action from the Scottish Government to reduce the risk of these cancers when it publishes its obesity strategy next year.

They are calling on the Scottish Government to introduce regulations to restrict multi-buy offers on unhealthy food and drink, paving the way for supermarkets to promote nutritious alternatives.

The campaign is being supported by Gary Maclean, who last year became the 10th winner to be awarded the prestigious title of MasterChef: The Professionals Champion. He met with Mary Dunlop, a Cancer Research UK cancer awareness nurse, who works in the community to highlight the benefits of making positive lifestyle changes like keeping a healthy weight. Mary showed Gary a ‘body fat’ model, which weighs 5lb, and is used to show the public what body fat looks and feels like, and to highlight the link between obesity and cancer. Cooking regularly for his five children, Gary, of Glasgow, knows how important it is to balance healthy eating with a family grocery shopping bill that comes in on budget. Gary said: “To see and feel what five pounds of body fat actually looks like is really shocking. It’s hard to believe so many of us are carrying extra weight around on our bodies all the time. 

“Obesity is one of the biggest issues facing our society with huge consequences for our health, the NHS and the wider economy.Too many cases of cancer and other health issues are linked to obesity and so it’s about time we said ‘enough is enough’. The Scottish Government has an opportunity to set an incredible example to the rest of the UK with an obesity strategy that will help people keep a healthy weight by filling their shopping trolleys with healthy foods that don’t blow the budget.”

Obesity and Cancer Awareness Week (9th-15th October 2017)** aims to highlight the health burden of Scotland’s growing weight problem. Polling carried out by Cancer Research UK last year found that almost three out of four (74 per cent) people in Scotland were unaware of the link between obesity and cancer***. The charity established widespread support from the public with around seven in ten Scots supporting a ban on junk food promotions. The Cancer Research UK poll also showed that eight in 10 Scottish adults believe the nation has a problem with obesity.

Cancer Research UK cancer prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld, who is based at the University of Stirling, said: 

“It is fantastic that Gary Maclean has joined the fight against obesity in Scotland.“It’s clear to us all that the Scottish Government has a once in a generation opportunity to introduce measures that will have a profound impact on our lives. Much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the unpalatable consequences of carrying too much weight. The Scottish Government’s commitment to limit junk food marketing is a step in the right direction but, to progress, regulations are needed to restrict multi-buy offers on unhealthy food and drink. We need urgent action now to protect the health of the nation and prevent thousands of cancers in the future.”

Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead at Obesity Action Scotland, said: "With around two out of three adults in Scotland overweight or obese we need to see bold and ambitious actions to improve the food environment and make the healthy choice the easy choice. This will help us stack the odds against cancer."

* The full Scottish Health Survey report can be found here: 
**Obesity and Cancer Awareness Week (9th-15th October 2017) is a new joint initiative by Cancer Research UK and Obesity Action Scotland. It aims to raise awareness in Scotland of the link between obesity and cancer.
*** YouGov survey on behalf of Cancer Research UK. Data collection took place from 24th February - 8th March 2016 and is based on a sample of 280 adults in Scotland.