BANT supports the ‘Better Health’ campaign but cautions against the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach
BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine) whole-heartedly supports any Governmental focus on improving the health of the British nation, a goal that BANT has, itself, been campaigning for over the past 20 years.
The ‘Better Health’ campaign with its U-turn on policy relating to junk food advertising and its goals to restrict BOGOF (Buy One, Get One Free) deals relating to foods that are ultra-processed, high in salt, fat and sugar and their availability at check-outs, is the first step in the right direction.
It will set the background for establishing the changes needed to engender a long-term cultural shift which allows healthy behaviour adaptations to an environment that offers so many opportunities for unhealthy indulgence either knowingly or in ignorance.
BANT is, however, against the use of calorie counting as it is well established that calorie counting is difficult to manage in supporting people looking to lower their risk of obesity. Calorie counting takes little to no account of the nutritional values of different foods and their relation to health and is problematic for those at risk of eating disorders.
Not for the first time BANT is asking “why promote a campaign that leads the population to rely on calorie defined processed foods, rather than simple, wholesome ingredients?”.
BANT is looking forward to the outcome of work done on traffic light labelling system.
The current system has some shortcomings, for example, in that a red label can be assigned to a healthy food e.g. an avocado, making it confusing to the public.
The causes of obesity are multifactorial and can include increased stress levels, systemic low-grade inflammation, lack of exercise, and choice of foods and their preparation/cooking methods, amongst others. There is growing evidence that minimally processed foods like non-starchy vegetables, fruit and healthy protein are more satiating and elicit less of a glycaemic response than ultra-processed foods, so prevalent in typical British diets. Additionally, minimally processed foods are associated with a decreased risk of cardio-metabolic disease. BANT published an article ‘Nutrition in the Age of Convenience’ in 2019 (https://bant.org.uk/2019/07/03/bant-cautions-against-dropping-policies-that-support-reduced-consumption-of-ultra-processed-foods/) highlighting how the prevalence of highly addictive ultra-processed foods and drinks have massively impacted the nation’s health. (A fully referenced, academic paper on this topic is available on request).
BANT continuously cautions that population-wide recommendations highlighted in Eatwell Guide that is not only based on out-dated nutrition science but is also aimed at a ‘healthy population’ is inappropriate. It is not only putting the health of the British public at risk but is contributing to the current National Health Service crisis. The OECD 2019 obesity rankings classified the UK as the eleventh most obese nation in the world, which whilst an improvement is still a truly dubious honour. Obesity and its related conditions are complex issues which require interventions at multiple levels to achieve both effective prevention and successful treatment, and this is putting an unbearable and unwarranted burden on NHS. A burden that the NHS at this time can ill-afford.
BANT was launched in 1997 to meet the needs of practitioners who were looking to practice a different approach to nutrition, one that was based on personalising evidence-based recommendations to the individual. BANT has, since its foundation, continuously called out for a different approach to the obesity crisis and has suggested: education about healthy eating; how diet and lifestyle can influence health over the short and long-term; and promotion by Government Agencies of the consumption of healthy ingredients and of foods and ingredients that are not ultra-processed.
BANT continues to promote its Wellbeing Guidelines campaign to encourage the British people to eat more individual ingredients and unprocessed food. Going back to some old-fashioned values, such a family meal times, and improving the nations cooking skills to use fresh ingredients, will go a long way to help the obesity targets and health of the individuals.