Key data: diet, weight and diabetes

Statistics on men's diet, weight and diabetes.

Compiled by Men’s Health Forum, July 2014. Updated January 2017.

Men generally eat a poorer diet than women and are less knowledgeable about healthy foods.

  • 24% of men and 29% of women consumed the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily in England in 2011 (Reference: Information Centre).
    • Consumption varied with age among both sexes, being lowest among those aged 16-24 (15% of men and 20% of women this age ate five or more portions) (Reference: Information Centre).
    • Higher consumption was also associated with higher income: 32% of men and 37% of women in the highest income quintile consumed five or more portions in 2009, but only 18% of men and 19% of women in the lowest quintile had done so (Reference: Information Centre).
    • A higher proportion of women (78%) than men (62%) were aware that five portions of fruit and vegetables should be consumed per day (Reference: Information Centre).
  • In England in 2014, 81% of men and 53% of women were estimated to exceed the recommended maximum salt consumption of no more than 6g per day
    • Mean estimated salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years was 8.0g/day (33% higher than the SACN recommended maximum); 9.1g/day for men and 6.8g/day for women. Median estimated salt intake was 7.6g/day (27% above the SACN recommended maximum); 8.6g/day for men, 6.2g/day for women. (Reference: Public Health England). 
  • According to the World Cancer Research Fund, men in the UK are less aware than women that eating processed meat such as bacon and ham increases the risk of cancer and they eat twice as much as women (Reference: WCRF).
    • WCRF has found that 36 per cent of men know about the link between processed meat and bowel cancer, while for women the figure is 41 per cent.
    • Men eat an average of nearly 50g of processed meat a day compared to 24g for women.


Men are more likely than women to be overweight (BMI 25+).

  • The Health Survey for England (2016 data) shows that 33% of adult men had a healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to <25) compared to 41% of women. (HSE, 2016)
    • 66% of men were overweight or obese (BMI 25+) – 40% were overweight (BMI 25 to <30) and 26% were obese (including morbidly obese)  (BMI 30+) (HSE, 2016)
    • 57% of women were overweight or obese – 30% were overweight and 27% were obese. (HSE, 2016)
    • 28% of children aged 2 to 15 were either overweight (12%) or obese (16%). 26% of boys were overweight or obese compared to 29% of girls. (HSE, 2016)
  • The highest rates of male obesity were in in the 45-74 age group, peaking between ages 55-64 where 79% (4 in every 5) men are overweight or obese. (HSE, 2016)
  • Data for England for 2006-10 shows that male obesity was highest in the Black Caribbean group (20.9% obese) and lowest in the Bangladeshi group (11.5%). 18.8% of the white male population was obese (Reference: National Obesity Observation).
  • Obesity prevalence varied with area deprivation in women but not in men. (HSE, 2016). Children from lower income households were twice likely to be obese (18%) compared with those from higher income households (9%). (HSE, 2015)
  • It had been predicted that obesity levels would rise significantly in men over the next 40 years. The extrapolation of current trends in 2007 indicated that, by 2015, 36% of males would be obese and that by 2025, this figure could be estimated to rise to 47%. By 2050, 60% of males could be obese. The proportion of men having a healthy BMI (18.5–25) would decline to less than 10% by 2050 (Reference: Foresight). However, in 2015, the Health Survey for Engalnd suggested 'that the trajectory of overweight and obesity has plateaued, as there has not been a statistically significant increase since 2010'. However, it continued: 'levels of both general and abdominal obesity remain high and unequally distributed in the adult population in England, with important consequences for health and health inequalities.' (HSE, 2015).

Perception of weight

Both parents and children underestimate a child's weight. (HSE, 2015)

  • The majority of overweight and obese children were not aware that they were too heavy. Only 26% of overweight, including obese children aged 8 to 15 described themselves as too heavy, compared with 41% who said that they were about the right weight.
  • Parents of overweight and obese children also often thought that their child was the right weight (although men were more accurate than women). The majority of overweight children were described as being about the right weight by their mothers (91%) and fathers (80%). Even for obese children, 48% of mothers and 43% of fathers felt their child was about the right weight. 


Hypertension (or high blood pressure) was twice as common among obese adults as among those of a normal weight; 43% of obese men and 37% of obese women were hypertensive, compared with 21% of men and 18% of women whose BMI was within the normal range. (HSE, 2015)


Men are more likely than women to be affected by Type 2 diabetes.

  • The prevalence of both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes rose with BMI, from 3% of normal weight adults, to 15% of obese adults. (HSE, 2015)
  • In England between in 2009-13, 8.7% of men and 6.5% of women aged 16 and over had diabetes (Reference: HSE/NHS DPP).
  • Diagnosed diabetes was highest among those with the lowest household income. 11.0% of men and 5.9% of women in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income had diabetes, compared with 4.7% of men and 3.7% of women in the highest quintile.
  • It is estimated that men account for 56% of those diagnosed with diabetes are male (Reference: Diabetes UK).
  • Men over 50 are nearly twice as likely to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes than their female counterparts (Reference: Diabetes UK). 
  • Of the men with diabetes, 22 per cent did not realise they had the condition before the study, compared to 12 per cent of the women. (Reference: Diabetes UK).

There are some marked differences between the prevalence of diabetes in men and women from different ethnic groups.

  • Black African and South Asian men are much more likely than women from those groups to have been diagnosed. (Reference: Diabetes UK).
    • Type 2 diabetes is more than six times more common in people of South Asian descent and up to three times more common among people of African and African-Caribbean origin (Reference: Diabetes UK).

The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.

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