Poor diet kills 70,000 Britons every year
Following on from the news earlier this week that Britons now enjoy fast food more than Americans we have this report on the growing health problems that poor diet is contributing to in Briton.
Almost 70,000 deaths could be avoided every year if Britons followed healthy eating guidelines, a wide-ranging government report says.
The nation's poor diet costs the economy £10 billion, of which £7.7 billion comprises NHS treatment that could be avoided if people cut down on fatty and salty foods and ate more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Those who die prematurely would have lived for almost 10 years longer if they adhered to dietary advice, the report says.
The figures are contained in the Cabinet Office report Food: an analysis of the issues, commissioned by the Prime Minister as a precursor to a government review of food policy and a new strategy on tackling obesity.
It includes grim predictions about the growth of obesity in Britain, with 60 per cent of the population expected to be overweight by 2050, compared with 28 per cent today, and 70 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys expected to be overweight or obese in 40 years' time.
The report also shows that children are being badly let down by parents who feed them far too much saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruit and veg.
"Children's diets are proportionally worse than adults and the future of children's health is of particular concern," the report says.
On average children eat only 2.5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day - half the recommended intake. They also eat 50 per cent more added sugars than the recommended maximum and 25 per cent more saturated fat.
Dr Ian Campbell, a GP and medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said government initiatives could go only so far in improving the nation's health, with ultimate responsibility resting with the individual.
"The evidence I have from my work with the charity and as a GP is that this is not a problem caused by lack of education - on the whole people know what they are supposed to do, but they just don't want to do it," he said.
"We have this social security/NHS psyche in this country where people think everything will be done for us, but people have to want to get healthy, you can't force them.
"Food is cheaper and easier to prepare than ever before and we live more sedentary lifestyles, so I'm afraid all the indications are that it will only get worse."
The report states that 42,000 premature deaths could be avoided each year if everyone ate five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, with another 20,000 deaths avoided by cutting salt intake from an average of nine grams to six.
Reducing fat and sugar intakes to recommended levels would save another 7,000 lives, making a total of 69,000, about 10 per cent of the overall annual death rate.
The estimated cost of avoidable food-related illness to the NHS and to industry is estimated at £10 billion but the report says that if everybody ate healthily the economy would be £20 billion better off due to the reduced health care costs and extra years of productive life