Junk foodFizzy drinks should be heavily taxed and junk food adverts banished until after the watershed according to a call for action from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

The Academy, represents all aspects of the medical profession from surgeons to GPs and psychiatrists to paediatricians, and rarely come together on issues but say the UK's obesity epidemic represents a "huge crisis".

Its report said current measures were failing and called for unhealthy foods to be treated more like cigarettes as they pose as great a threat to national health.

Prof Terence Stephenson, the chair of the Academy, said: "The government helped people move away from smoking with required things like a ban on advertising and a reduction in marketing and the association of smoking with sporting activities - we need something similar to be done with unhealthy foods as well.

"But there is no 'silver-bullet' for tackling obesity; we need the entire culture around eating to change to make it easier to make healthy decisions.

"I choose what I eat or whether I smoke, what people have told us is they want help to swim with the tide rather than against the current to make the healthy choice the easy one."

The UK is one of the most obese nations in the world with about a quarter of adults classed as obese. That figure is predicted to double by 2050 - a third of primary school leavers are already overweight.

The Academy's report has recommended the following in order to tackle that rising figure:
- A ban on advertising foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
- Further taxes on sugary drinks to increase prices by at least 20%
- A reduction in fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres
- A £100m budget for interventions such as weight-loss surgery
- No junk food or vending machines in hospitals, where all food must meet the same nutritional standards as in schools
- Food labels to include calorie information for children

While the report makes a raft of recommendations, Prof Stephenson attacked sugary drinks for being "just water and sugar" and lambasted a culture where it was deemed acceptable to drink a litre of fizzy drink at the cinema.

"Doctors are often accused of playing the nanny state, we didn't hear from a single person who said they liked being overweight, everybody we met wanted help from the state and society," he added.

"If we didn't have things like this we wouldn't have speed limits that save lives, we wouldn't have drink-driving limits that save lives, there's a host of things that society and state does to help us live long, healthy fulfilling lives and we're just suggesting something similar."

The Department of Health in England has already set up voluntary agreements with the food industry as part of its responsibility deal and Health minister Lord Howe has now said he wants to see "businesses intensifying their efforts to support healthy eating".

"To tackle the rising tide of obesity the industry, healthcare professionals, government and individuals all need to continue working together to get results, which is why our Call to Action sets out how important this is," he added.

"Government is already helping people make healthier choices by working with industry to reduce fat, salt and sugar in foods and by giving children and families advice on how to eat well, get active, and live longer through Change4Life."

Read editor Penny Hosie's blog 'Dump the Junk'

JFHC have just launched a new series of books bringing together the best articles from the Journals recent archives. The first of these focuses on Nutrition - click here to pre-order the book to get an early order discount.

Posted 18/02/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com