Obesity and Sugar – Successive governments have failed to act despite the warnings

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report out on Friday 17th makes recommendations on sugar and fibre consumption.  Inevitably the recommendations on sugar got the most attention, with a call for us to reduce our intake by half.

2020health’s top messages:

  • Our 2014 report Careless Eating Costs Lives’ top message is that there is no sobesitythumbnailingle solution and unless a comprehensive strategy is put in place, levels of obesity will still rise.
  • Of crucial importance is prevention and early intervention. A holistic strategy is urgently needed for children and should be a top priority.
  • The evidence tells us that once an adult is obese, the vast majority remain obese. 0.5% of men will return to normal weight; and just under 1% of women [1]. The best evidenced treatment for obesity is bariatric surgery.

Our take – clinical and political

  1. Whilst updated research is necessary, this is unhelpful if it leads to piecemeal ‘solutions’ to a complex and multi-faceted problem.
  2. We are mystified as to why taxpayer’s money was used to produce another report telling us that sugar causes tooth decay and that people who eat too much sugar put on weight.
  3. The recommendations on fibre intake will be difficult for anyone to consume. The example given is: 30g of fibre a day could be achieved, for example by consuming ALL of the following in a day: five portions of fruit and vegetables, two slices of wholemeal bread, a portion of high fibre breakfast cereal, a baked potato and a portion of whole wheat pasta.
  4. Successive governments have failed to act despite the warnings. This is the biggest    public health failure of our time.

Julia Manning, CEO of 2020health said: This report tells us what we already know, and it isn’t the obesity strategy that we desperately need. There is no single solution to obesity and whilst many people do eat too much sugar, this advice needs to be part of a cross-cutting hard-hitting obesity strategy. We have called for a cross-departmental obesity task-force, and for all policy to be considered in the light of what it will mean for the public’s health. We still haven’t got the action we require to tackle this enormous problem.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33551498 reporting from the American Journal of Public Health

About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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