UK Government Announced Plans to Reduce 20% of Calories in Popular Foods by 2024 to Tackle Childhood Obesity

Major steps to cut people’s excessive calorie intake have been unveiled by Public Health England (PHE), as part of the government’s strategy to cut childhood and adult obesity.

The package includes:

  • new evidence highlighting overweight or obese boys and girls consume up to 500 and 290 calories too many each day respectively
  • a challenge to the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024
  • the launch of the latest One You campaign, encouraging adults to consume 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 for lunch and dinner; this comes as adults consume 200 to 300 calories in excess each day

Too many children and most adults are overweight or obese, suffering consequences from bullying and low self-esteem in childhood, to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers as adults. An obese parent is more likely to have an obese child, who in turn is more likely to grow up into an obese adult.

Obesity affects us all, as it is a burden on the NHS and local authorities. The NHS spends around £6 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions. Obesity-related health problems also keep people out of work, stifling their earnings and wider economic productivity.

The government’s challenge to the food industry is set out in Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action, published today, Tuesday 6 March 2018, by PHE. As with the sugar reduction programme, the industry has 3 ways to reduce calories:

  • change the recipe of products
  • reduce portion size
  • encourage consumers to purchase lower calorie products

Categories of food covered by the programme include pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks.

If the 20% target is met within 5 years, more than 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented and around £9 billion in NHS healthcare and social care costs could be saved over a 25 year period.

The report also includes new data on children’s daily calorie consumption. Depending on their age, overweight and obese boys consume between 140 to 500 calories too many each day and for girls, it is 160 to 290 when compared to those with healthy body weights. Adults consume on average 200 to 300 calories too many each day.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE, said:

The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.

Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy and promoting UK business leadership on the world stage in tackling obesity.

The latest One You campaign aims to support people to be more calorie-aware when they are out and about with its simple tip 400-600-600. Aim for 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 for lunch and dinner. Major high street brands are partnering with PHE on the campaign, signposting to meals that meet the 400-600-600 tip. Total daily calorie intake recommendations remain at 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said:

It’s hard for people to make healthy food choices, whether for themselves or their families. That’s why we are challenging the food industry to take 20% of the calories out of everyday foods, building on their good work on salt and promising announcements on sugar.

We are also working through our campaign and its partners, to give the public the information they need to help make those choices easier.

The 20% reduction target is the result of analysis of the new calorie consumption data, experience of sugar and salt reduction programmes, and more than 20 meetings with the food industry and stakeholders.

The next step in the programme involves engagement with the whole food industry such as retailers, manufacturers, major restaurant, café, takeaway, and delivery companies, and health and charity sectors, to develop category guidelines. These will be published in mid-2019.

Source: GOV.UK

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Common Chemicals in Nonstick Pans and Food Wrappers Could Hurt Your Health–and Your Waistline

Amanda MacMillan wrote . . . . . . .

A common class of chemicals that’s been linked to cancer, fertility problems, and thyroid dysfunction has now been tied to another major health issue: According to a new study in PLOS Medicine, women who have high levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their blood tend to gain back more unwanted weight after dieting.

The new study included both men and women who’d been enrolled in a two-year clinical trial and who lost weight by following a heart-healthy diet. But when researchers factored in the levels of PFAS in participants’ blood at the start of the study, they found that people with high levels tended to gain more of that weight back after initially losing it.

The association was found almost exclusively in women, and the researchers say that PFAS’ effects on estrogen in the body may be one reason why. But the study also found that people with high PFAS concentrations had lower resting metabolic rates; in other words, their metabolism was slower and they burned fewer calories doing daily activities.

The researchers concluded that PFAS may play a role in body weight regulation, and therefore in the country’s current obesity epidemic. “We all know it’s feasible to lose weight through diet or physical activity; however the challenging part is that almost no one can maintain that weight loss,” says senior study Qi Sun, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Now we’ve shown that PFAS level may actually determine how much weight people regain.”

But what exactly are these chemicals, and why are they in our bodies to begin with? Here’s what you need to know, and how you can reduce your exposure.

Ditch fast food and microwave popcorn

PFAS chemicals have water- and oil-repellant properties, which makes them valuable to the fast-food industry and for packaged foods like microwave popcorn. In a 2017 study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, researchers found that about half of the 400 food wrappers and containers they analyzed contained fluorine, an indicator of PFAS.

Previous studies have found that PFAS have the potential to leach into food—and that once PFAS enter the body, they stay there for years. That’s reason enough to avoid exposure whenever possible, says Laurel Schaider, PhD, an environmental chemist at the Silent Spring Institute and lead author of the food-wrapper study.

“I think we all already have some reasons to reduce how much fast food we consume, and this may be another one,” Schaider told Health in 2017. “If you’re going to eat it, you could try to get the food out of the wrapper as quickly as possible—that might help a little bit.”

Think twice about stain- or water-resistant products

Another common use for PFAS is making clothing, carpets, upholstery, and other textiles stain- or water-resistant. (Think of advertisements where spilled wine on a sofa beads up and wipes right off.) And while some older PFAS have been phased out of textile production because of associated health and environmental risks, some newer ones have taken their place, says Tom Brutton, PhD, a fellow and PFAS researcher at the Green Science Policy Institute—and their health effects are not yet known.

To be safe, Brutton recommends avoiding stain-, water-, soil-, or grease-repellant products whenever they’re not necessary. And when they are—in the case of a raincoat, for example—look for gear labeled PFAS-free or fluoro-free. “You’re starting to be able to find rain jackets and outdoor gear without these chemicals,” he says, “and I think there will be many more options in as little as two or three years.”

If you already own fabrics with PFAS, don’t panic. “The harm that’s going to happen to one person from the exposure of wearing a raincoat or sitting on a stain-resistant carpet is probably quite minimal,” says Brutton. “What we’re really concerned about are the chemicals released when these products are manufactured and also when they’re disposed of and end up in a landfill.” If consumers can make smarter choices so there are fewer of these products in circulation, he says, it will be better for our health, and for the environment as a whole.

Don’t buy another nonstick pan

The same advice goes for nonstick cookware: If you already own pots and pans with these chemicals, you don’t have to stop using them or throw them away—at least not until they’re scratched or damaged. But don’t buy a new set either. “The exposure to you from your use of that pan isn’t going to be so huge that it represents a significant health threat,” says Brutton. “But when it’s time to buy a new one, perhaps look for one that doesn’t contain PFAS.” Many experts recommend stainless steel, ceramic, or cast-iron cookware, or you can look for brands that advertise being PFAS-free.

Be smart about seafood

Because they’re so prevalent in the environment, PFAS can also accumulate in the tissue of animals that humans then consume for food. The chemicals have been found in contaminated seafood, for example, and Brutton says that buying organic won’t necessarily reduce your exposure.

What will help, however, is choosing fish that are lower on the food chain. You may already be doing that if you’re concerned about mercury and other heavy metals in seafood, says Brutton. Following those same rules will also help you avoid PFAS. “Instead of buying swordfish, for example, choose salmon,” he says.

Source: Health


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Chemicals in packaging, carpets and non-stick pans ‘may contribute to obesity’ . . . . .

What Might Make Prostate Cancer’s Return More Likely?

Obesity and other health problems may boost the chances of cancer returning after a man has his prostate removed, a new study finds.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and up to 30 percent of patients will develop recurrence after [prostate removal],” said study author Dr. Arash Samiei, of Allegheny Health Network’s urology department in Pittsburgh.

Samiei’s team analyzed data from 1,100 prostate cancer patients who had their prostate removed (radical prostatectomy) at a Pittsburgh hospital between 2003 and 2013. The patients were an average of age 60 when diagnosed.

Thirty-four percent were obese, and 19 percent had metabolic syndrome — a group of risk factors that increases the chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Characteristics of metabolic syndrome include high blood sugar, obesity, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The patients were followed for an average of four years. Prostate cancer returned in more than 32 percent of obese patients, compared with about 17 percent of those who weren’t obese, the researchers said.

Patients with metabolic syndrome had a more than four times higher risk of prostate cancer return than those without the syndrome, according to the study.

The findings are scheduled for presentation at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting, in Austin, Texas.

“Obesity and metabolic syndrome have become increasingly widespread in our society,” Samiei said in an association news release.

This study indicates that “prostate cancer patients who are obese or have metabolic syndrome undergoing [prostate removal] may have a higher chance for recurrence of the disease, and these individuals should have more focused follow-up care,” Samiei said.

Because the study is observational, it can’t prove that obesity and metabolic syndrome are responsible for cancer returning.

Still, “by preventing metabolic syndrome, men with prostate cancer may have a higher chance of a favorable oncological outcome following surgery,” Samiei said.

Source: HealthDay


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How Canada Can Help Protect Canadians from Obesity and Chronic disease

University of Toronto nutritional scientists are leading a study with national experts calling on the Canadian government to outlaw junk food marketing to children, impose stricter limits on unhealthy nutrients added to foods, and impose a “sugary drink tax.”

Professor Mary L’Abbé, chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Banting postdoctoral fellow Lana Vanderlee, made the recommendations in a newly released report, called the Food-EPI Study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In it, they examined Canada’s progress on obesity-curbing measures compared with other countries.

They found that Canada performed well on some important measures, such as political leadership to support healthy eating, and transparency in developing food policies (which if secretive can lead to undue influence by the food industry).

For some important areas where Canada trails its peers, Health Canada has recently announced new policies to address these issues. However, the authors say Canada still has work to do: there are a number of areas where there are almost no policies or programs at any level of government.

Despite the good news, there were notable disparities between provinces, with Quebec having the most progressive food policies, including a restriction of junk-food marketing to children, and some other provinces failing to do as much to protect residents. Even the foods and drinks that can be sold in schools varied across provinces and territories. Overall, Ontario fared roughly in the middle of the pack.

“Even if we’re meeting best practices in some areas, we shouldn’t get complacent,” says Vanderlee. “Canada doesn’t have taxes on unhealthy foods, such as sugary drinks, even though the evidence from other countries suggests these work. If we don’t move on this front, we’re going to fall behind.”

Mexico, which has some of the world’s highest child obesity rates, is seeing success with a soda tax, and other countries are following suit, she says. The UK is on the verge of implementing such a tax, and South Africa just announced one.

“Most of the evidence indicates that sugary drinks are among the biggest contributors to sugar consumption and play an important role in weight gain,” she says. “You don’t get as full when you’re drinking your calories and it’s easy to consume a lot of sugar in a short time.”

The federal government also currently imposes no restrictions on marketing junk food to children, L’Abbe says, although they have announced impending regulations as part of the Healthy Eating Strategy.

“We know that marketing to kids changes what they want to eat and what they’re asking their parents to buy. And we know that it is the unhealthy foods that are the most heavily marketed to children,” she says.

Asking for voluntary industry cooperation to make foods healthier, with less sodium, hasn’t worked well in the past for all foods, she says. The Canadian government hasn’t made any voluntary or mandatory restrictions on the amount of sugar or saturated fat in foods either, nor have officials set any targets for levels in restaurant foods.

“The evidence is mounting that these kinds of government interventions work,” says Vanderlee. “But we know no individual policy is a silver bullet. That’s why Canada needs a comprehensive and coordinated strategy if we want to move the dial on obesity and diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer and keep up with international leaders.”

Source: EurekAlert!

Link between Obesity and Cancer is not Widely Recognized

A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has shown that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand the connection between weight issues and cancer. Obesity is associated with thirteen types of cancer, including those of the breast, kidney, bowel, and womb. However, after surveying 3293 adults, taken as representative of the UK population, researchers found that only a quarter of respondents were aware of the link between obesity and cancer.

Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, leading to approximately 3.4 million deaths worldwide. Despite the fact that 63% of the English and 67% of the Scottish adult population is overweight, only 25.4% of this population listed cancer as a health issue related to being overweight when asked an unprompted question.

There were also several misconceptions about cancer types linked to obesity. Researchers found greater levels of awareness about cancers of the digestive system organs, such as bowel and kidney, than for those of the reproductive organs, such as womb or breast.

The study’s authors also examined the impact of respondents’ socio-economic background and found that those in a lower income group were more likely to be overweight or obese and were less aware of the link between weight issues and cancer. Modelled projections show obesity trends will increase by 2035 and the gap between the highest and lowest income groups will widen further.

Although there are currently several healthcare initiatives to address obesity issues, the study found that not all participants had seen a healthcare professional in the last 12 months. Of those who had, only 17.4% had received advice about their weight, despite 48.4% being overweight.

Those who received advice were mainly instructed on how to lose weight, rather than given information about the range of health issues associated with being overweight or obese.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, from Cancer Research UK and study co-author, said: “We’re very concerned that most people simply don’t connect cancer with obesity. This study shows that only one in four know that excess weight increases the risk of cancer so we need to make the link very clear. This may go some way towards tackling the obesity epidemic which all too often begins in childhood.”

“Our study also showed that GPs aren’t discussing weight with patients who are too heavy as often as they might, Dr Vohra said “GPs have very little time during their appointments and should have more support to introduce sensitive issues such as obesity, with patients.”

Source: EurekAlert!


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