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Obesogenic — is your environment making you fat?

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) is proposing a ten-point action plan to combat the UK’s obesity crisis.  The British Dietetic Association (BDA) contributed to this work. The BDA is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The recommendations make up part of a report that says that the UK is the ‘Fat Man’ of Europe and that two thirds of adults are overweight (BMI over 25) and one quarter of men and women are obese (BMI over 30).

In its ‘Measuring Up’,  the medical profession’s prescription for the Nation’s Obesity Crisis report, the AoMRC report recommends 10 key actions it believes must be taken to make real inroads into tackling the obesity crisis in the UK including changing the ‘obesogenic’ environment and making the healthy choice the easy choice.

It’s suggested that there are weight management services that include both early intervention programmes and, greater provision for severe and complicated obesity, including bariatric surgery. There should also be nutritional standards for food in hospitals. There should be increasing support for new parents, ‘skilling up’ basic food preparation skills to new mothers and fathers, guiding them to appropriate food choices.

Regarding combating the ‘obesogenic environment’, this should focus on nutritional standards in schools with new statutory requirement on all schools to provide food skills, including cooking, and growing alongside a sound theoretical understanding of the long-term effects of food on health and the environment. It should also include a reduction in the number of fast food outlets near schools, colleges, leisure centres and other places where children gather.

As for junk food advertising, it proposes a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before the 9pm watershed, and an agreement from commercial broadcasters that they will not allow these foods to be advertised on the internet or other ‘on-demand’ services.

To make The Healthy Choice The Easy Choice, the BDA suggested sugary drinks tax, increasing the price by at least 20%. This would be an experimental measure, looking at price elasticity, substitution effects, and to what extent it impacts upon consumption patterns and producer/retailer responses.

Major food manufacturers and supermarkets should agree in the next year to a unified system of traffic light food labelling (to be based on percentage of calories for men, women, children and adolescents) and visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets.

Linda Hindle, Chairman of the British Dietetic Association’s DOM UK specialist group (Dietitians in Obesity Management UK), said, “Obesity in the UK is an absolute epidemic, there is no question that the recommendations in this report are essential if we are to tackle this growing concern. The focus on the obesogenic environment is particularly positive because the odds are stacked against individuals trying to make healthy choices when they are surrounded by easily accessible, relatively cheap, high calorie snacks. The British Dietetic Association worked hard in contributing to this report, but words alone will not combat obesity rates in this country.  Action across the board is what will make a difference.”
More information can be found at www.aomrc.org.uk.

 

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