The Government has published the second chapter of its Childhood Obesity Plan which contains an ambitious commitment to halving childhood obesity by 2030.  Its latest research found that one in 25 children in England aged 10 or 11 are severely obese.

The Health and Social Care Committee's ideas to tackle the issue include: 

  • Bringing in tougher rules on the advertising of junk food, including a ban on ads before 9pm.
  • Banning sweets and chocolate and other unhealthy foods from the ends of food aisles and checkouts.
  • Banning branded characters, like ones from TV and films, from being used to promote unhealthy products.
  • Limiting discounts and price promotions, like "buy one get one free", on unhealthy food and drink.
  • Bringing in calorie labelling for meals eaten outside the house, such as at restaurants and cafes, to help families to make healthier choices.

The idea for clear, consistent calorie labelling in the out-of-home sector has been a focus of Diabetes UK’s Food Upfront Campaign and Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, welcomed the announcement.

“These measures – if translated into legislation and action – have the potential to transform the health of our nation, and begin turning the tables on the Type 2 diabetes time bomb we currently sit upon," he said.

“In particular, we welcome the proposed commitment to clear, consistent calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways. Research tells us that having this information available helps consumers make healthier choices, so this could, in practice, be an incredibly positive step in the right direction.

“With one in three children either overweight or obese before they leave primary school, it’s clear that bold, decisive action needs to be taken. Being overweight as a child can significantly increase your risk of developing serious conditions like Type 2 diabetes in the future.

“The challenge now will be ensuring that the voices of all those who champion making the healthy choice the easy choice are listened to and for these commitments to become a reality.  We hope this second chapter in the Childhood Obesity Plan is the start of a new chapter in our approach to tackling obesity – and in turn Type 2 diabetes – across the UK.”

Dr Julia Zakrzewski-Fruer, lecturer in health, nutrition & exercise at the University of Bedfordshire, believes a combined approach from the government, companies and individuals focusing on a wider range of factors that affect obesity is needed to solve the impending UK obesity epidemic.
 
“Childhood obesity has reached a critical level in the UK, often resulting in early development of cardio-metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The cost of treating these diseases is putting a growing burden on the already stretched NHS, which is not sustainable in the long term.
 
“Undoubtedly, the new government plans - which aim to reduce excessive energy intake from food and drink through limiting access to sugary drinks, sweets and chocolate - are a step in the right direction to limit calorie intake and combat obesity. They send an important message to the public that the issue of childhood obesity must be taken seriously," she said.
 
“However, there are many factors other than the location of sweets and chocolate near tills, unlimited refills of sugary drinks in restaurants, the advertisement of foods high in sugar and salt on the TV and energy drinks that can contribute to high energy (calorie) intakes in children and adolescents. These include high-fat, fast food, and parental and peer influences. There also needs to be a bigger focus in promoting physical activity to overcome the issue of low energy expenditure that contributes to weight gain and poor health. Crucially, increased physical activity can improve one’s health even without a variation in body weight.
 
“Unfortunately, eating and physical activity behaviours are often complex and difficult to change through a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why a blend of government initiatives to promote healthier choices, efforts from companies to adapt their marketing and products, and a conscious effort from individuals and parents is needed if we’re to make any progress in fighting obesity. ”

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