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Obesity to blame for an sharp increase in knee replacements

4 min read

It has been reported that the UK's knees are 'crumbling' under the strain of our increasing obesity problem.

In 2013 almost 10,000 people had replacement knee surgery as a result of their joints being unable to cope with the increased stresses and strains being overweight puts on them.  This figure has increased by 150% in just 4 years, a significant and alarming rise.

Knee replacements are predominantly funded by the NHS - taxpayer funded

The NHS was launched in the UK in 1948 and is the world's largest publicly funded heath service. Worldwide it is known as one of the most comprehensive and efficiently run health service. After World War II, the NHS was created from an ideal that good healthcare should be available to all people regardless of their wealth. Some items such as dental services, prescriptions and optician/eye-care are subject to some subsidised charges but it is predominantly free to all UK residents.  

The NHS is funded directly by taxpayers with the amount governed by Parliament - for the period 2012/13 it was funded to the tune of approximately £108.9 billion.

Knee replacements for obese people costs over £50million a year

The cost of knee replacements for obese people in 2013 was more than £50 million. Whilst there are other factors to consider such as age, it is believed that the vast majority of these replacements is purely due to increased wear and tear due to excessive bodyweight. The cost of obesity to the NHS each year is recorded as £5.1 billion which is approximately 5% of its entire budget.

The great concern is the rate at which obesity related problems are rising.  In 2009/10 almost 4,000 knee replacement operations were conducted, by 2012/13 this had more than doubled to almost 10,000. A further concern is the increasingly young age at which obesity is affecting people. The earlier obesity starts to strain the body, the worse the future effects are, for example a replacement knee is estimated to be 15-20 years based on normal wear and tear.  If a person under 40 receives a knee replacement due to obesity then there is a very high likelihood that they will need 2 or more replacements in their lifetime. Over time, if this trend continues, the costs to the NHS and taxpayers will spiral higher and higher.

To reverse the trend everyone needs to make an effort to help

In order to reverse this trend it will take a huge combined effort by everyone to hit home to that a healthy and responsible diet and lifestyle is hugely important, and to make people aware of the longer term issues it can cause. The food industry is starting to take note with calorie and nutrition advice becoming more apparent on food packaging, fast food chains are also following suit by providing calorie information against items on their menus.

Obesity problems are unfortunately also affecting many children - in fact there is an alarming rise in childhood obesity in countries across the globe. This rise has been attributed to factors such as:

  • Families are cooking less and eating out more.
  • Easy access to cheap, high-calorie fast food and junk food.
  • Food portions are bigger than they used to be
  • Kids spend less time actively playing outside, instead spending increasing time watching TV and playing computer games
  • Many schools are eliminating or cutting back their physical education programs. 

Tips on leading a healthy lifestyle

A healthy diet can help you look and feel great - your body needs energy and nutrients from food to work properly and if you don't eat a healthy, balanced diet, you could be putting your health at risk. A man needs around 10,500kJ (2,500kcal) a day to maintain his weight and a woman needs around 8,400kJ (2,000kcal) a day. Among other factors, these values can vary depending on age and levels of physical activity. 

To maintain a healthy weight, you need to balance the amount of calories you consume through food and drink with the amount of calories you burn through physical activity. To lose weight in a healthy way you need to use more energy than you consume, this can be achieved either by reducing your calorie intake or increasing the amount of physical activity in your life.

Here are some guidelines put forward by the NHS to maintain a healthy life:

  • Don't skip breakfast. Research shows that eating breakfast can actually help people control their weight. Make sure you have a healthy start to the day!
  • Aim to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables a day - fruit juice, smoothies and vegetables baked into dishes such as stews all count!
  • At snack time, swap foods that are high in saturated fat or sugars for healthier choices.
  • Make sure you drink enough fluids. Aim to drink six to eight glasses of fluids a day
  • If you're feeling tired and run down, you may need more iron in your diet.
  • If you often feel hungry, try eating more high-fibre foods such as wholemeal bread, beans, fruit and vegetables.


A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.