Officially, the number of obese people has more than doubled in a decade and is on the increase.

17 per cent of males and 20 percent of females in the UK are obese and 50 per cent are overweight, subjecting themselves to huge health risks including heart disease, diabetes, gallstones, cancer and osteoarthritis.

Why is it that many over-weight people seem to eat less than those who are slim, yet cannot lose the excess pounds?

Looking into shopping trolleys at supermarkets may provide some clues -convenience food high in unhealthy fats and sugar and low in nutrients and fibre are the norm in many households.

For others a sedentary lifestyle is the key. Difficult to exercise if you are unfit and even harder when surrounded by fellow armchair enthusiasts.

Repeated attempts to lose weight are frequently hampered by the downward spiral of low self-esteem and depression. Supportive family members are worth their weight in kilo-calories if they don't insist on eating their 'goodies' in front of you.

Even better if they decide to get healthy too and join forces with you. But at the end of the day it is down to the individual to shift the excess, by shifting their attitude away from crash dieting, stomach stapling and liposuction towards healthy eating.

I recently attended a seminar by Dr Jeffrey Bland, an international authority on preventative medicine, who explored some of the complex links between the worldwide rise in obesity, diet and related diseases.

Research now indicates that in many cases obesity may not solely be the consequence of gluttony or lack of will power.

According to Dr Bland, the way our body cells communicate affects how the body functions and how it controls our appetite. If our intercellular messengers are not operating as they should and cells are not receiving the correct instructions, eating disorders may result. No prizes for guessing which factors create disordered cellular communication!

Stress, toxic chemicals and an unhealthy diet can all change the way our cells speak to each other. For this reason Dr Bland recommends nutritional support programmes should be tailored to meet the unique genetic background and medical history of the individual.

The basic rule that applies to all is to stabilise blood sugar levels which helps to reduce cravings and reduces the tendency to store fat. Fresh vegetables, certain fruit, beans, lentils and wholegrains have less effect on raising blood glucose than sweet or refined foods.

Science also acknowledges that combining protein with carbohydrates is essential for good blood sugar control (eat fish with rice, beans with pasta or tofu with vegetables).

So have a go at making the right food choices - allow your cells to work together to achieve weight loss of the lasting kind.