How to do the string test to see if you are too fat and putting health at risk

As a nation we are gaining weight rapidly, risking our lives and passing on bad habits to our children and future generations.

Fast food, busy lifestyles and genetics are largely to blame and a new BBC documentary looks at ways to battle the bulge and improve rates of obesity .

Using the latest scientific research, it claims to show how simple changes can help keep us trim by eating at the right times, keeping our gut bacteria in check and even how some researchers are looking at a simple injection that could solve the serious problem of obesity.

The simple string test is also shown and is a good place to start to check if you are overweight and taking years off your life.

Here’s how to do it.

Quite simply, get yourself a piece of string that’s long enough to go from your heel to the top of your head.

Then fold that length of string in half. See if you can fit it around your middle…

If you can, that’s great, as waist size should be less than half your height, if you can’t it’s time to take a look at your diet and how much exercise you do.

We now know that visceral fat – that around your middle – wraps around the body’s vital organs, those being the heart, liver and pancreas which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and of having dangerous levels of blood pressure.

According to the BBC documentary, 25% of people with a normal BMI score failed the string test, which means that people with a healthy BMI score can still carry too much weight around their vitalk organs and risk their health.

Doctor Margaret Ashwell features in the show and explained: “BMI doesn’t measure fat distribution. The best way of explaining it is think of a great hunky rugby player, they might have the same BMI as a chubby darts player.

“The rugby player might have more muscle than fat, where as a dart player is going to have more fat than muscle.”

Ashwell also advised that it’s easy to rectify and is back to the simple message of eat less and exercise more.

Losing just five per cent of body fat will cut visceral fat and helpfully, it’s the first area that shifts.

The show also looks at whether it’s our eating habits or genetics that are to blame for so many people in the UK being obese.

Professor Sadaf Farooqi from the University of Cambridge believes it is down to genetics.

“It is a lottery,” he says. “We inherit these genes. They either contribute to a higher tendency to gain weight or they may protect you from gaining weight.

“It’s not really about people’s fault, it’s about understanding there is a lottery, we can moderate some things in our environment, but actually understanding there is a very biological side to this is very important.”

The number of obese British five to 19-year-olds went up from 360,000 in 1975 to 1.13 million last year, according to a report for the World Health Organisation.

Scientists said the overall child obesity rate of about 10% was flatlining but warned it was soaring for the poor and falling for the middle and upper classes.

The experts are now urging the ­Government to develop strategies to make healthier food more affordable.

The Truth About Obesity is on Thursday April 26 on BBC1 at 8pm.

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