Public health tragedy awaits if health professionals and the public don't act to tackle the obesity and diabetes 'pandemic' being perpetuated by the "ultra-processed fast food and soft drink industry", Professor Graham MacGregor has claimed.
Speaking at the FAB Research Conference - Sugar, Fat, Food & Addiction, last week [10 July] the cardiovascular medicine professor at London St Barts suggested that Socially deprived families, in particular, do not have a choice on food with the 'pester power' of children from more impoverished backgrounds an equally important factor in the food industry's "relentless pushing of cheap, ultra-processed fast food and sweetened soft drinks that are very high in sugar".
As a member of Action on Sugar, Prof MacGregor outlined the steps that the group is urging Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take in order to curb the growing obesity and diabetes crisis:
1) Reduce the amount of sugar in all products by 40% by gradual incremental reformulation
2) Cease all forms of advertising of unhealthy food and drink products to children
3) Disassociate physical activity from obesity by banning junkfood sponsorship
4) Reduce fat in ultra-processed food (esp. fat) by 15% by 202
5) Limit the availabilty of ultra-processed food and drinks and reduce portion sizes
6) Incentivise healthier food, discouraging drinking sugar-sweetened drinks by introducing a 'sugar tax'
7) Remove responsibility for nutrition from the Dept of Health and return it to an independent agency such as the Food Standards Agency
8) Scrap the Responsibility Deal that sees the food industry 'self-police'
By implementing this plan, Prof MacGregor suggests that a 100Kcal/day reduction in calorie intake can be achieved and prevent further increases in obesity and type 2 diabetes while especially supporting socially deprived groups.
Having also formed part of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, Prof MacGregor referenced the success of the campaign in reducing salt intake by 49k tonnes from 2003-11, achieving £5m savings for the NHS and asked "Why can't we do the same for sugar?".
He concluded by urging health professionals to continue to push the message of reduced sugar intake and not allow "the profits and profile of the food industry to overwhelm us from making changes, as public health tragedy awaits if we don't".
For more information visit www.fabresearch.org