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Act against the drivers of obesity and rid Britain of its label as ‘the fat man of Europe!’

British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT)

3 min read Partner content

BANT 2024 Election Manifesto – A call for change!

As football fever heightens, one undesirable title our nation has already claimed is that of being the 'fat man' of Europe!’

This is according to Professor Terence Stephenson in Measuring Up, a report on the nation's obesity crisis by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC). He goes on to say "It is no exaggeration to say that it is the biggest public health crisis facing the UK today," words echoed by Satu Jackson, CEO for the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) in her foreword for the BANT manifesto (1,2).

The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe, ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Levels have more than trebled in the last 30 years and, on current estimates, more than half the population could be obese by 2050.

There have been an astounding 14 strategies and 680 policies put in place by the various governments since 1992 simply relating to obesity. They have all failed (3).

They include a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm and restrictions to buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOFs) promotions on junk food such as crisps and biscuits, currently delayed till 2025. The government’s own impact assessment shows that such promotions do not save people money, but encourage impulse purchases that increase what people spend and consume (4). Simply put, they drive consumers to eat more of the very foods that are making them ‘fat’.

As a nation, more than 50% of our national diet is comprised of ultra processed foods and drinks (UPFDS), rising to over 80% in lower socio-economic groups (5,6). UPFDS are directly linked to 32 harmful effects to health, including a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, adverse mental health and early death (7). Obesity is both a risk factor and precursor to most of these chronic diseases.

As a nation, we are moving further away from real food. The benefits of eating a healthy whole food diet are far reaching and can rapidly improve metabolic markers for most diet-related diseases affecting the UK population. The problem is that healthy foods and ingredients are not as affordable or accessible as their ultra-processed counterparts. This creates barriers for many in society who find themselves struggling to access, afford, prepare, and cook healthy meals. “Our nation needs help to eat healthily,” says Claire Sambolino, Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and BANT Communications Manager.

We need to act against the obesogenic environment by de-escalating the expansion of Ultra-Processed Foods and Drinks (UPFDs), prioritise providing access to health-promoting foods to all communities, particularly low-income families, and review the current Sugar Tax to include ingredients such as maltodextrins and non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners.

BANT calls on Political Parties to:

  • Introduce mandatory reporting by food companies, with clear targets and penalties for volume of UPFDs/HFSS foods sold; fruits and vegetables/fibre foods sold; types of protein sold; amount of food wasted.
  • Commit to legislation to limit advertising and in-store BOGOF and other promotions on UPFDs.
  • Set mandatory minimum promotional thresholds on fresh whole foods to ensure fruit, vegetables and protein foods are equitably promoted.
  • Update the current Sugar Tax to include ingredients such as maltodextrins and non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners. 

Download the full manifesto here or access our online flipbook.

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