The UK government recently announced a number of new measures to try and tackle the growing obesity crisis, and the health inequalities that result from it, with their national food strategy. Writing in the Guardian Tim Spector suggests that, while a good start, it is the equivalent of sticking a plaster over a severed limb and more should be done to promote nutrition education.
Discussing the scale of the problem Tim Spector writes, “We are already the fattest nation in western Europe. Using data from the 4 million users of the Covid Symptom Study app, which I helped set up, UK citizens on average put on almost another kilo in the three months after lockdown started in March. We also have the worst diets, eat proportionally the most ultra-processed food and snack more than any other European nation.”
“Junk food is bad for us – especially when labelled misleadingly as “low fat, low carb, low sugar”. Diets containing high levels of ultra-processed foods have now been shown in clinical trials to increase hunger and the amount people eat. They also lead to a lack of diversity of gut microbes and poor gut health, which causes yet more metabolic problems.”
Hear Tim Spector explain the connections between gut health and overall health and wellbeing in the Table Talk Podcast.
Improve education to improve nutrition
How can we address this problem? The key is to expand food and nutrition education across the board, “Doctors like me learned virtually nothing about nutrition at medical school, and the same is sadly true today. With the UK lacking a traditional food culture, most of us are very ignorant. Food education should be a compulsory subject, from nursery school to university, like maths and English.”
“Parents should be encouraged to introduce a much wider range of healthy foods to their infants and toddlers. Primary school kids should start learning about plants and how to grow and cook them, and these lessons should increase in secondary school so they learn more about agriculture, food production and the relationship between our environment, nutrition and health. Before leaving school, everyone should be able to prepare a healthy meal from scratch with a few simple ingredients, just as we learn our multiplication tables or how to write a letter.”
“All health professionals should undergo more rigorous training in nutrition as a core subject, and receive annual updates once qualified, so that they can spread the word based on knowledge not bluff. We need a huge dose of education, education, education to reverse years of brainwashing by big food.”