What is costing £29 Billion per annum?  
(scroll down May 15th 2006)  

About the same time as I started to bore quietly for Britain on this web site in 2002 on diet, health and how to retrieve the situation with a Restorative Regime, unknown to me Peter van Gelder was inventing:

The Westminster Diet and Health Forum

The Westminster Diet and Health Forum was launched in 2002 to provide an environment whereby parliamentarians, senior policy advisors, regulators and pharmaceutical and health related industries, together with interest groups, analysts, academics and others, can discuss critical issues of public policy relating to diet and health. The first keynote seminar featured a major address from Health Minister Hazel Blears MP.  Discussion panels addressed subjects including 'Diet and Health, the limits of industry's responsibility'.

Since then then much has happened and the Forum has tackled the roles and responsibilities of consumers, the media and government to such good effect that agreement is being reached and action taken on all sides to tackle what is now, in the summer of 2004, seen by all to be a national priority.

To get details of the next seminars of the Westminster Diet and Health Forum contact:

Peter van Gelder
Director, Westminster Diet & Health Forum, Dale House, London Road, Sunningdale, Berkshire  SL5 0HB

A seminar of the Westminster Diet and Health Forum took place on June 30th 2004. The subject was SALT.

I contributed the following comment to the publication which recorded the transcript of the day's discussion.
I recommend anyone interested in the health of the nation to obtain a copy, which contains the collected wisdom of people with more to say than my brief comment (below) on part of the proceedings. It can be purchased by writing to the address shown above. The price is £65 -  If you have been reading the newspapers and watching the box recently you will know that the work of the forum has borne fruit. Your support for its work will be very much appreciated.

Nutritional Health - The Dilemma of Governments

In a democracy where choice is an essential element of the mechanisms of progress and stability, how do we deal with addiction? I am not just talking of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, I am talking food and drink. At the Westminster Diet & Health Forum Keynote Seminar on Salt, 30th June 2004 the addictive component of the UK's current health crisis (not too strong a word) was highlighted in a graphically clear presentation by Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, St. George's Hospital Medical School.

Salt, which entered our diet significantly as a means of preserving some perishable foods many centuries before the days of refrigeration, is now not only added as a routine in domestic and professional cooking. It has become a key ingredient in the commercial competition for the shopper for snacks and ready-made meals. The more we eat and become accustomed to salt, the less we notice it and the more we desire it. As a nation we now consume on average many times the maximum healthy daily allowance. It makes us thirsty, too, so when we turn to what should be a relaxing pint of beer at the end of a hard day we drink too much of that, with well known consequences.

While it is likely that UK food manufacturers will have heard and heeded the signs of stormy weather ahead, there is little likelihood of health warnings yet on some of the basic breakfast cereals that consist of over refined carbohydrate and salt, to which we add more sugar. These refined carbohydrates are also addictive. Regardless of any coordinated efforts by manufacturers (necessary though these are) it has to be by education of the public that the tide is turned.

Governments are faced with a double dilemma. On the manufacturing and marketing end, regulation in an open market environment is difficult, prohibition effectively impossible. On the consumer end the mechanism of choice, which normally uses the principle of negative feedback to achieve stability at an acceptable level, ceases to work when addiction enters the picture. To override this and regain control in the runaway condition where negative feedback has turned to positive (this is addiction), a government that turns to anything stronger than advice is instantly accused of being nanny. For government to name and shame specific products leaves them open to accusations of financial and reputational damage based on opinion and fine judgment. A given product may not be dangerous unless consumed too often. To promote specific healthy options, such as a breakfast of Dorset High Fibre, with Actimel and Soya and a banana instead of sugar, would be outlawed as commercial favoritism.

However, effective action is needed if we are not to follow the path of failure predicted by the reporter from The SundayTimes who attended the seminar and predicted with confidence that although he was quite convinced by Professor McGregor's logic, neither the public nor industry would respond. One wonders how much the cynicism of the media contributes to the scepticism of the public on this and many other issues.

At the very least, the government should now set up a small but efficient expert body, independent of government, to fund short and punchy public service educational programmes on television. The very first one should be Professor McGregor's presentation, unedited, broadcast once a day for a month or until it had been brought to the attention, by those complaining about it (there are bound to be those, aren't there!) of the entire country.

Naming and shaming can be done if products are identified generically, and the same applies to healthy options. It will then need concerted action by manufacturers, supermarkets, schools, universities, public services, the military and the catering industry to achieve an acceptable outcome in 5-10 years.

James Baring
Nutritional Advisor to EPRA (UK)
Employment Project for Recovering Addicts                                     July 6th 2004


UPDATE FEB 21st 2005
Those who claim that this government does not deliver should take note that both the private sector and the government are taking action in all the areas listed in the last paragraph, on major elements of the nutritional spectrum. In schools, the initiative involving the excellent Jamie Oliver is an example of the most intelligent attempts to engage the public, organisations and individual catering professionals. Improvement is now likely though there are still, of course, commercial pressures acting as a drag in the opposite direction. If these comercial pressures can be forced to act within a framework of survival through better nutrition, there is hope. The pressure must come from consumers, who must be re-educated, and from the top by managers, who must be held to account.

MARCH 30th 2005
I find it rather hard on the government that they should be accused of 'jumping on a bandwagon' when it is government ministers who have supported by their attendance and contributions.the discussions and seminars which have led directly to setting the mood and thence the opportunity for Jamie Oliver to take the public lead in finding out exactly where the log-jam is in correcting our lousy eating habits. This is not an easy thing to bring about. There are not a hundred Jamie Olivers ready and waiting to carry out the multifaceted but rigorous operation that he has just completed. In fact there was just one man for the moment and it was him. The result is much better than what would have been achieved by my suggestion (on July 6th above) of starting off with a lecture on diet from an academic, but at least my plea for serious media involvment has been heeded. So yes, it is 20 years late as Jamie points out, and yes it is a modest start with some funds directly allocated to improve the quality of school meals; but actually blaming this government for doing something that should have been done 20 years ago is not that sensible. This is not a party-political issue, but it has taken a lot of political support as well as media initiative to bring about what has just happened. Whichever party gains power in the next election it must remain on the front burner.

SEPTEMBER 30th 2005

 Friday September 30, 12:26 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Healthcare systems have failed to come to grips with the global obesity epidemic and its serious health consequences, leading experts said on Friday.

More than a billion people, 10 percent of whom are children, worldwide are obese or overweight. It is the sixth most important risk factor in the overall burden of disease.

But there are no co-ordinated efforts among doctors,

nurses, and nutritionists to prevent people from piling on the pounds or to help those who already have, the experts said.

"No health-service system has yet developed a useful strategy for managing the huge numbers of overweight and obese people in the community," said David Halsam, of the National Obesity Forum, UK, and Philip James, of the International Obesity Task Force.

In a report in the Lancet medical journal they detailed the dire consequences of neglecting one of the world's most neglected public health problems.

Obesity decreases life expectancy by seven years by the time a person reaches 40 years old. About 30,000 deaths a year in Britain and 10 times that amount in the United States are attributable to being obese, according the duo.

In the United States, which has the highest rate of overweight and obese people, the problem is set to overtake smoking as the main preventable cause of illness and early death.

In addition to shortening life, carrying too much weight also increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, diabetes, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

"About 10 percent of all cancer deaths among non-smokers are related to obesity," Halsam and James said.

Obese people are also more likely to suffer psychological problems, be considered less acceptable partners and are handicapped in job promotions and may earn less.

"The medical profession is only now waking up to the political and industrial challenges as well as the medical challenge," they said.

Halsam and James warned that food industry interests, with powers greater that those of the tobacco giants, are lobbying and using tactics to slow the drive for change.

"Our new scientific understanding of obesity is helping to validate a new approach to tackling the problem but the response of the medical profession to both its management and prevention is still at an early stage," they added.


COMMENT: Why not make an effort then? Ruth Kelly has in fact announced a policy to ban junk food and sweet fizzy drinks in schools.

OCTOBER 2nd 2005         The Government is taking action.
It will take a few years and cost hundreds of millions, most of which will be spent on the ingredients of school meals and the rest on staff and kitchens

Sunday, 2 October 2005, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
School meal guidance to be given
Tough guidelines on the nutritional value of school meals in England are due to be set out by the government.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly is expected to say children should get almost one-third of their weekly fibre and protein from their school lunches.

Maximum levels of sugar, fat and salt will be given and it is thought Ms Kelly will say school meals should have two portions of fruit and vegetables.

Junk food will be banned from schools from next September.

The nutritional standards will be given to schools from this autumn, and will be made mandatory by autumn 2006.

Nutritional standards were introduced a few years ago for meals in Scotland's schools.

In an announcement last week, Ms Kelly said the "scandal of junk food served in school canteens" had to end.

Certain foods, including poor quality meat, would be banned from school meals, she said in a speech to the Labour Party conference.

And school vending machines would not be permitted to stock chocolate, crisps or fizzy drinks from next September, the secretary of state said.

Obesity 'doubled'

The School Meals Review Panel, an expert advisory group on school meal standards, is set to announce detailed nutritional standards for school meals on Monday.

The panel was set up by the government in response to a campaign by TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve the quality of school meals.

And the government said the amount of money spent on each school meal would rise to 50p in primary schools and 60p in secondary schools from this term, to become mandatory next September.

According to guidelines released earlier this year by the Caroline Walker Trust, which has been advising the government on school meal standards, meals should give children 40% of the recommended levels of zinc, iron, calcium and vitamins A - C over a week.

The trust says the number of school-age children who are obese has doubled since 1992.

More nutritious school meals could help stave off diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer in later life, it says.

The trust also says packed lunches should contain at least two portions of fruit and vegetables.


 Another worthwhile development would be the commercial production of healthy sugar substitutes. see:  and search for xylite

OCTOBER 6th 2005
TODAY's Independent FRONT PAGE AND PAGE TWO (I am sure they will forgive my pinching this) ARE TRANSCRIPTED BELOW.  As far as those already suffering from diabetes and need a sugar substitute, the answer is provided by the link and search instructions directly above. As far as the prevention of the large scale problem is concerned, the answers have already been provided on this web site, starting 3 years ago and clarified regularly by updates.

Diabetes: health crisis of the 21st century

Diabetes could bring first cut in life expectancy for 200 years

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

Published: 06 October 2005

Doctors describe it as a catastrophe waiting to happen. The accelerating rise in the number of people with diabetes threatens to overwhelm the NHS and could lead to the first reduction in life expectancy for more than 200 years.

Unlike other health threats, the death of tens of thousands of people is inevitable. The World Health Organisation warned in a report yesterday that the number of lives claimed by diabetes in the UK is set to grow by a quarter over the next decade, driven by rising obesity and inactivity.

In the UK, about two million people have been diagnosed with the condition, which shortens lives by a decade, is the leading cause of blindness and increases by 15 times the risk of amputation of the legs.

The numbers affected have grown by 500,000 in the past nine years - an increase of a third - and are set to rise to three million by 2010. Up to a further million people remain undiagnosed.

Professor Sir George Alberti, the immediate past president of the International Diabetes Federation and Britain's foremost expert on the disease, said: "The explosion of diabetes is with us and we will see a great increase in heart disease and strokes. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Much stronger government action is needed.

"This is one of the biggest health catastrophes the world has seen. The financial and social burden of the disease will be intolerable if governments do not wake up and take notice now."

Diabetes affects 150 million people globally and causes five million deaths a year. The numbers affected have almost tripled in 50 years, from 55 million in 1955, and will rise to 300 million by 2025. The WHO predicted diabetes deaths in the UK would rise from 33,000 this year to 41,000 by 2015. More than 80 per cent of sufferers will die of heart attacks or strokes and more than 1,000 a year have kidney failure and have to start dialysis.

Professor Alberti said: "The WHO may well be grossly underestimating the deaths associated with diabetes in the UK. If you take all the avoidable deaths from heart disease and stroke, their figure looks very conservative."

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "What people do not recognise is that diabetes is a killer. The numbers are going up by 100,000 every year and the Department of Health's own statistics show £4bn a year is spent treating diabetes. That is 5 per cent of the entire NHS budget. There is a danger it will overwhelm the NHS unless something is done to curb the growth in cases."

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, a team of academics, led by Jay Olshansky from the University of Illinois, warned that the increase in diabetes and other chronic diseases as a result of growing obesity could lead to a fall in life expectancy. They calculated that life expectancy would already be up to a year longer if there was no obesity and that it could be reduced by five years or more over the coming decades if obesity continues to increase.

The main cause of the rise in Type II diabetes, which now numbers 1.8 million cases, is the growth in overweight and obese people. The risk is 10 times higher in those with a body mass index over 30. In Type II diabetes, the body loses its capacity to make insulin, a hormone which helps glucose enter the cells, or becomes resistant to insulin. It usually affects older people but as Britain has grown fatter, the disease has begun to affect younger people. According to Diabetes UK, 91,000 people aged 15 to 44 have been diagnosed and the first cases have been detected in overweight and obese children.

David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, said the impact of diabetes was unavoidable. "This is not like a comet that might or might not hit the Earth. The scary thing is that even if from tomorrow we prevented anyone becoming obese with 100 per cent success, we still have enough people with diabetes to create an epidemic of heart disease, stroke and cancer to come. It is inevitable that it will happen."


1.8m people in the UK have diabetes - a 450% rise on 1960

3m will be confirmed sufferers within six years - an increase of 67% on today's figure

1m more are estimated to have diabetes - but don't even know it

10% Within six years, one pound in every 10 spent on the NHS will go on treating diabetes

100,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with Type II diabetes - which is linked to obesity - each year.

50% More than 50% of British children could be obese by 2020, according to the Royal College of Physicians

37" A waist this size puts men at high risk of developing diabetes

31.5" A waist this size puts women at high risk of developing diabetes

30 A Body Mass Index above 30 means a 10 times greater chance of developing diabetes

1-in-6 of six to 15-year-olds in Britain is obese - a rise of 300 per cent in 11 years.

80% The ratio of men over 30 who will be overweight by 2015 in the UK, according to the World Health Organisation

The UK has the fastest growing rate of diabetes in the developed world. Britain also has the fastest growing rate of obesity

The World Globally, cases of diabetes have risen from 55 million in 1955 to 150 million in 2004, projected to grow to 300 million by 2025

41,000 people in the UK will die from diabetes in 2015. This marks a 25% increase on today's annual death rate

1/2 or more of all diabetes cases would be eliminated if weight gain in adults could be prevented.

Sources: World Health Organisation, Diabetes UK, and the Royal College of Physicians

NOVEMBER 9th            SALT
The "short punchy public service messages" I advocated in relation to salt consumption in July 2004 are up and running on UK Channel 4 TV, I am delighted to see (maybe elsewhere, I have not checked). The message is very short and punchy, does not waste airtime and directs us to where the details are available in bytesize.

There is also a response from the industry at where Dr David McCarron leads off with this:

Dr David McCarron is one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of nutrition on hypertension. He has been involved with an analysis of survey data on blood pressure and nutrient intake from more than 20,000 adults in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in the US over the past 20 years. It confirms that it is mineral deficiency rather than sodium intake that is the main influencer in high blood pressure.

Dr McCarron presented these findings at a recent London nutrition conference, where he also called for a health outcomes study to determine whether salt intake had any long-term effect on our health.

There is a short video of him talking.

The truth is that he is also right about mineral deficiency, but the important thing to understand is the phenomenon of antagonism between minerals and the blocking of take-up and absorption of some minerals caused by an excess of others. This phenomenon has been the subject of extensive experiments in respect of minerals in the soil and their take-up and use by plants. I have conducted experiments in that myself. The required balance in the soil can be very exacting. Minerals like cobalt and molybdenum and selenium are required in small, sometimes minuscule quantities. A concentration of any one of a number of such minerals can be toxic. But an oversupply of some vital minerals that are required in significant volume can cause a protective reaction that blocks the intake of others. Excessive sodium intake is likely to cause an effective deficiency in other minerals, too little sodium imight produce the same or an imbalance of others as well as a defficiency in sodium itself. There is a broadish range where all will be well, but this will depend on the rest of the diet and the behaviour of the individual. If your health is good and your blood pressure OK, then you are getting something right. If it's not something is wrong. It does not take another multimillion pound study to find out what the Greeks found out over 2000 years ago. Moderation in all things is the recipe for good physical and mental health.

NOVEMBER 25th 2005
Although progress is being made in the supermarkets, this article from The Independent shows we still have far to go.

Supermarket price deals 'promote unhealthy food'

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Published: 25 November 2005

Supermarkets are actively promoting unhealthy food with price cuts despite concern about obesity, a report claims. At all but one of nine grocery chains checked by the National Consumer Council (NCC) there were twice as many price promotions on "fatty and sugary" products as on fresh fruit and vegetables.

At one store, Somerfield, just 7 per cent of "special deals" involved fresh produce. Health campaigners say price promotions are particularly important because they appeal to lower-income groups whose diets have been improving the least. The Government advises eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

The survey of 2,346 price deals - typically "buy one get one free" promotions - found that no shops had achieved the NCC's target of having a third of special deals on fruit and vegetables. Marks & Spencer did best with 27 per cent of its special deals involving healthy food. The Co-op was worst: 37 per cent of its promotions were for sugary and fatty food. Next poorest were Tesco and Iceland, both on 35 per cent.

The report concluded that as far as in-store promotions were concerned, most retailers were "undermining" public health goals. But the NCC said there was an overall improvement in the supermarkets' approach to healthy eating. It scored each of the retailers on its health responsibility index, which checks nutritional content, labelling, in-store promotions and customer information and advice.

The Co-op came top of the index, scoring six and a half out of 10, followed by Marks & Spencer and Waitrose on six. Fourth and fifth were Sainsbury's, which improved a little, and Asda, which improved a lot since last year's report on the same subject.

Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket, came sixth after showing a "modest overall improvement". The chain's overall performance was "pedestrian". Iceland and Somerfield performed poorly, and bottom place was taken by Morrisons despite a "slight improvement" on last year.

The report said supermarkets were starting to decrease the number of "unhealthy" snacks on display at checkouts. Many stores had greatly improved their labelling. There was also praise for salt reduction programmes. The NCC checked 10 common own-label standard products such as baked beans and cornflakes. The Co-op came top for having the least salt, followed by Iceland, Asda, Tesco and Waitrose. But the consumer body said that of all the 82 products surveyed, only five met its target for salt.

"On the basis of this year's figures, we calculate that where you shop could still add as much as 22 per cent more salt to your diet," the report's author, Sue Dibb, said. On fat, research could find "no overall trend towards fat reduction".

Stark variations were found in the amount of sugar. Tesco's economy strawberry yoghurt contained nearly twice as much sugar as Sainsbury's, and Asda's "healthier" tomato ketchup had half the sugar of the Co-op brand.

The NCC chief executive, Ed Mayo, said its study, Healthy Competition, indicated that supermarkets had made progress: they were starting to compete on health as well as price. "The fact that the Co-op has an above-average share of budget-conscious shoppers shows this is not just for the better off," he said.

Morrisons called the study "inaccurate" and said it failed to recognise the progress it had made on healthy meals and salt reduction. Tesco claimed that the NCC study was out of date. Since the study went to print, it had announced it was removing emulsifiers, stabilisers and hydrogenated fats from ready meals.

Another Indepedent report shows there is a long way to go.

Fast-food 'healthy options' still full of fat and salt

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Published: 01 December 2005

Healthy options offered by burger and pizza chains are still stuffed with salt and fat despite menu changes.

An investigation of the food sold by the "big four" - McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut - found that 17 of 20 products were high in salt or saturated fat or both. Of those, five out of eight of the salads used as "evidence" of their embrace of healthy eating had "high" salt or fat content.

On average, the fast-food meals sampled by Which? had 274 calories per 100g of food, more than double that of a home-cooked roast dinner. And there were inaccuracies in the nutritional information provided by three of the companies.

McDonald's website claimed that a Big Mac and medium fries had 786 calories but analysis showed it had 900. Burger King's Whopper and regular fries had 19 grams of saturated fat, rather than the 13 grams claimed. Levels of saturated fat in KFC's Zinger crunchy salad were almost treble the company estimate.

Obesity has tripled in England since 1980. A third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese. Which? said that although fast food was not solely to blame, the rise in weight had been accompanied by the rise in fast-food sales.

Researchers said the chains frequently targeted children in promotions by giving away toys or goodie bags. Many used children's characters such as Mr Men, Postman Pat, Winnie the Pooh and My Little Pony.

Which?found the popularity of fast-food outlets was related to their advertising budgets. Researchers also analysed nutritional content. Burger King fries were only 86 per cent potato; the 11 other ingredients included partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, rice flour, dextrose, corn syrup solids and salt. McDonald's chicken grills contained 19 other ingredients. McDonald's and Burger King's cheddar slices included "cheese flavouring", trisodium citrate, diphosphates, polyphosphates and sorbic acid.,

Some of the fast-food meals scored astronomical calorific counts. A Big Mac, medium fries and small vanilla milkshake contained 1,169 calories. A diner would need to walk 16 miles to work that off.  Which? said: "Nearly all the fast food we tested contained a lot of salt. And salt can lurk where you least expect it. The KFC original chicken salad contains more salt than the KFC chicken fillet burger."

A Pizza Hut margherita pan pizza and garlic bread had 5.4 grams of salt, almost the entire recommended daily allowance of 6 grams.

The companies said their menus now had more variety. Pizza Hut said it gave customers "the choice of healthy or more indulgent food". McDonald's said its customers visited on average just two or three times a month.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, said: "The food industry knows there is evidence of a health problem which it is part of, but it likes to claim it has nothing to do with it."

Which? wants to ban television advertisements for fast-food aimed at children, saying such "aggressive but sophisticated" marketing was irresponsible

END OF Independent REPORT

It is true that 'agressive, sophisticated marketing' for fast-food that is not wholesome aimed at children is irresponsible.
However it would be very difficult to define the boundaries.

If we take this sentence: A Big Mac, medium fries and small vanilla milkshake contained 1,169 calories. A diner would need to walk 16 miles to work that off. from the report above, it is important to realise that walking is not the only way we burn off calories. Working, thinking burns off calories. The brain uses a lot. What is required is an active metabolism and lifestyle and many children have classically had such. However, watching TV may not consume many calories and watching TV while eating and drinking high-calorie food is a weight-gaining exercise. The solution must come from the consumer as well as the producer of food and drink'

MARCH 03 2006
Now we have calls for Stilton Cheese to contain less salt! Can we get serious! The aim is for people to limit their salt intake. Stilton is a delicacy, not to be eaten in huge quantities, regularly, by addicts. Stilton is not the cause of our national health problems. It is supposed to be salty and needs the salt to stabilise itself. If Stilton Cheese was advertised everywhere as the essential breakfast food, like corn-flakes which contain hidden salt, we would expect the advertising to be controlled or the salt limited. But this is not the case. Another example of people wishing to hide behind simplistic rules to avoid responsibility for thinking and making judgements

APRIL 19th 2006                   UNPREPARED FOR FREEDOM

Back in October 26th there was a Westminster Diet & Health Forum Seminar: "Be Healthy – Effective engagement with young people on substance abuse and sexual health." All aspects of the current situation were discussed, with a full range of speakers. One speaker thought we might be wasting our time by worrying about it at all. I was moved to add this comment, but I recommend you order a copy of the entire booklet of 110 pages, my two pages here are just a comment on one aspect of the subject. The publication can be ordered from: 

Director, Westminster Diet & Health Forum, Dale House, London Road, Sunningdale, Berkshire  SL5 0HB  Direct line: 01344 875551  Direct fax: 01344 875225

Unprepared for Freedom


APRIL 19th 2006 - About time this was exposed. Trans-fats are worse than natural saturated fats, and this has been known for over 20 years. The BBC had a go recently in the Food Programme on Radio 4, but the fast food producers are still at it.

Fast food awash with 'worst' kind of fat

New Scientist Thursday April 13, 02:30 PM
By Andy Coghlan

French fries and chicken nuggets from two major global fast-food chains contain very high levels of artery-clogging "trans" fats, researchers warn. And the level of trans-fats served by the chains varies dramatically from country to country.

Researchers who analysed the fast food say that daily consumption of 5 grams or more of trans fats raises the risk of heart attack by 25%. Half of the 43 "large"-sized fast food meals, 24 from McDonald's and 19 from KFC, examined in the study - purchased in outlets around the world - exceeded the 5 gram level.

Trans fats are thought to pose a hazard by raising the proportion of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, leading to the accumulation of fat in arteries. Trans fats also increase the risk of arterial inflammation and the development of an irregular heartbeat.

"That's why it's called 'killer fat'," says Steen Stender of the Gentofte University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, and lead author of the analysis in The New England Journal of Medicine .

Some combinations of "large" fries and "large" chicken nuggets from McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets contained between double and five times the 5-gram danger level.

Stender says that consuming such food regularly could drastically increase someone's risk of a heart attack, but the fast food companies could solve the problem by changing the industrial-grade oil they use to prepare the food.

"The good thing about trans fatty acids is that it's easy to remove them," notes Stender. "When you enter a McDonald's or a KFC, you should be entering a trans-fatty-acid-free zone," he adds.

In a review of trans fats in the same journal, Walter Willett at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, US, and colleagues, conclude that in the US alone, complete removal of the industrially-produced trans fats from food preparation could prevent up to 228,000 heart attacks per year in the US.

The fats are convenient for the fast food industry because they can be used repeatedly to fry foods at high temperatures without breaking down chemically. But manufacture of the industrial-grade cooking oils vastly increases the proportion of trans fats in the oil, from zero to as much as 60%.

In Stender's analysis, the fries and nuggets containing the most trans fat had invariably been cooked in oil that was itself high in fat.

The highest levels of all were found in a meal from a KFC in Hungary which contained 25 g of trans fats, and had been cooked in oil containing 35% trans fats. Levels were also high in KFC meals bought from Poland (20 g), Peru (16 g) and the Czech Republic (15 g).

The highest-scoring McDonald's meal was from New York, US (10 grams), cooked in oil containing 23% trans fats.

Both companies say they are committed to phasing out the trans fats from their cooking oils. "We're at the early stages of reviewing alternative oils options, which includes looking at local taste preferences, supply availability, storage, as well as other factors such as functionality," Christophe Lecureuil of KFC International told New Scientist .

"McDonald's takes the matter of trans fatty acids seriously," says Catherine Adams, vice president of worldwide quality systems, food safety and nutrition at McDonald's. "Our reduction in the US is taking longer than anticipated, as we have previously announced. But we continue to progress in our testing and we are determined to get it right for our customers."

Stender found that levels of trans fats were much lower in merchandise from most West European countries, and were virtually undetectable in fries and nuggets from Denmark, where it has been illegal since 1 January 2004 to sell food with levels of trans fats exceeding 2% of the total fat in a food product. "It took less than three months for the industry to remove it," Stender points out.

Journal reference: The New England Journal of Medicine (vol 345, p 1650)

MAY 15th 2006

Leading article: The costs of prevention and cure

Published: 15 May 2006

Heart disease accounts for 40 per cent of all deaths in Britain, yet it often seems the poor relation so far as high-profile medical research and fund-raising go. Perhaps because it afflicts so many people, a heart condition often seems to be regarded as a fact of life rather than something that can and should be tackled as a national priority.

The research findings we report today expose the folly of such a view. In 2004, the NHS spent almost £16bn - more than 20 per cent of the entire health service budget - on treating cardiovascular diseases. This is much more, as a proportion of total spending, than the health services of either France or Germany. When you add the estimated cost of lost production and informal care by family and others, the total cost approaches £29bn a year.

Article Length: 414 words (approx.)

JULY 18th 2006

It's never too late to start exercise -study

  Tuesday July 18, 10:30 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - It's never too late for couch potatoes to start exercising and cut their risk of heart disease, according to research on Tuesday.

Neither does it have to be strenuous activity -- even just walking can make a difference.

"You don't have to go to the gym. Just get off the couch," said Dr Dietrich Rothenbacher of the University of Heidelberg in

Germany. "It is never too late to start exercising," he told Reuters.

The researchers studied the impact of physical activity on patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) and a group of healthy volunteers of the same age and sex.

They found that people who exercised throughout their lives had the lowest risk of the illness, which is one of the biggest killers in industrialised countries.

"But we also found that people who changed their physical activity patterns in late adult life also reduced their risk for coronary heart disease," added Rothenbacher, an epidemiologist at the university.

The scientists re-evaluated data they had previously collected on patients and volunteers ranging in age from 40 to 68 who had been questioned about their habits and exercise patterns.

Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for heart disease, were more common in the patients with the illness than in the healthy volunteers.

People who said they had been active throughout their lives had about a 60 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Couch potatoes who changed their ways and began exercising after the age of 40 were about 55 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the illness than people who had always been inactive.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the heart is a muscle and requires regular physical activity.

"The earlier you adopt a more physically active lifestyle, the bigger the rewards will be for your heart, helping to reduce your risk of CHD in later life. So don't wait until you reach 40 to get active," said a spokeswoman.

Obesity pandemic engulfing world: experts

AFP Sunday September 3, 09:37 AM

SYDNEY (AFP) - Obesity has reached pandemic proportions throughout the world and is now the greatest single contributor to chronic disease, an international conference was told here.

"This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world," Australia's Monash University professor Paul Zimmet, chair of the 10th International Congress on Obesity, said on the opening day of the conference.

The spread of the problem was "led by affluent western nations, whose physical activity and dietary habits are regrettably being adopted by developing nations," Zimmet told more than 2,000 delegates.

The world now has more fat people than hungry ones, according to World Health Organisation figures, with more than a billion overweight people compared to 800 million who are undernourished.

The congress on obesity is held every four years, with the last three staged in Toronto (1994), Paris (1998) and Sao Paulo (2002).

"The conference will treat obesity as the keystone of all health priorities because it is the single greatest contributor to chronic disease throughout the world," said University of Sydney professor Ian Caterson, the event co-chair.

"There are now more overweight people in the world than undernourished and we are seeing the double burden of the extremes of malnutrition -- undernutrition and overnutrition -- in many developing countries.

"We know this is not about gluttony -- it is the interaction of heredity and environment. We know that small changes can make a big difference in peoples weight and health."

Zimmet said the problem needed urgent solutions -- not just widespread changes to diet and exercise but the rethinking of national policies on urban and social planning, agriculture policy, education, transport and other areas.

He also warned in an opening address that the growth of obesity-related diabetes, or so-called "diabesity", was set to bankrupt health budgets all over the world.

Around 370 speakers and presenters at the six-day congress will discuss a range of issues, including scientific research on how the brain regulates energy and advances in the prevention and clinical management of obesity.

The conference is being attended by academics and health professionals from Australia, Japan, the United States, Britain, Canada, Sweden, Indonesia and New Zealand.

OCTOBER  02 2006

A BBC NEWS REPORT (below) is of considerable interest, giving as it does some meaningful statistics on the divided opinions on the freedom of advertisers and the market amongst those supporting different political parties. There is no doubt this is a complex matter, touching on the fundamental philosophy that underpins what we call 'a free society'. Many people still think that regardless of the power of modern media, it must be left to the individual to make a choice that he or she understands if any sustainable trend is to be established. Others take the view that yoing people who have not had sufficient enducation at home or at school, or have ignored what sensible education they had in the face of peer pressure, should not be subjected to what all serious students of psychology class as brainwashing at an early age. While adults increasingly ignore TV advertising and use commercial breaks to make tea or visit the loo, children are targetted more and more. Advertisers know well that they are the key to sales. Not only do they influence what their parent buy, they grow up into brainwashed adults. The margin in the vote by Conservative delegates was narrow.

Monday, 2 October 2006, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK

Tories back ban on children's ads
Conservative delegates have voted - by a narrow margin - to consider a ban on marketing targeted at children.

Some 52% agreed that it was time to consider outlawing junk food ads on TV and other promotions aimed at youngsters, while 48% voted against.

The result followed an interactive "hot topic" debate at the Tories' conference in Bournemouth. Participants used keypads to vote and text their views.

Tony Blair says he would consider banning junk food ads to boost health.

'Powerful message'

Nick Stace, director of campaigns and communications at consumer group Which, led the charge for a ban, arguing that Britain is becoming "the fat man of Europe and getting fatter".

"By 2010, one million children in England will be clinically obese. Parents of course need to take action and be responsible and so do schools," he told the audience.

"If we do not tackle this issue and take a multi-faceted approach, then the obesity problem will not be solved.

"£1bn is spent a year on advertising - parents want you to act. 76% of people who voted Conservative at the last election would vote for a ban on healthy advertising.

"82% of people who say they never vote Conservative would vote for a ban.

"If you vote yes, you will be sending a powerful message to the food industry about the way they promote unhealthy foods."

Adults' role

Janet Daley, commentator for the Daily Telegraph, spoke out against the move saying she did not see the need for a rush to legislation.

"You can't make a law against everything for which you disapprove," she said.

One of the principle responsibilities of parenthood was not to rid the world of enticements or possible risks, but to equip children with self control and instil character, she said.

Life is "inherently dangerous" and it was the role of adults to teach children how to cope with it, she added.

"It's not the state's responsibility - it's the responsibility of all grown ups ... It's a question of law or not law."

'Further debate necessary'

One representative, who opposed the move towards a ban, said: "I would like to see a ban on bans. Haven't we seen enough of that from our present government?"

Mr Stace said he believed supporting his stance showed that the Conservatives were "a party that is listening to the views of ordinary people".

However, Ms Daley said she found it interesting that the audience seemed "ambivalent" to the proposal.

"It is obviously a topic that will have to be discussed," she said.

The prime minister has said he wants to give the food industry a chance to prove it can regulate its own ads.

Alcohol harmful?

But if in a year's time new guidelines were judged not to be working he would consider legislation, he has previously told the BBC.

Media regulator Ofcom is consulting on restricting junk food ads but has already ruled out the option of a pre-9pm broadcast ban.

The Tory "hot topic" is one of a number of debates that will take place at the party's four-day conference.

Others come under the titles of "cheap flights are a false economy" and "alcohol does more harm than drugs".

The Health Profile of England report published on Tuesday- which shows the UK has the highest obesity rate in Europe - comes just two months after the Department of Health predicted 13m people in England would be obese by 2010 if nothing was done to tackle the problem.

It sets out the progress the government has made in tackling public health since the publication of its Choosing Health white paper in 2004.

NOVEMBER 17th 2006   

If it is true that even these feeble steps will cost broadcasters £39 million, imagine the amount of junk food they reckon this advertising has ADDED to the diet of children compared to what it would sink to if they stopped. Or are the manufacturers claiming that they support TV for charitable purposes even though there is no financial return on the 39 million? I think not.

Junk Food Rules 'Not Tough Enough'

Sky News Friday November 17, 10:47 AM

A total ban on the advertising of junk food during children's programmes has been officially proposed. Ofcom's suggested new rules were developed amid concerns at rising obesity rates in youngsters. The restrictions apply during all children's programmes and adult shows of particular appeal to under-16s.

They will cost broadcasters up to an estimated £39m in lost advertising revenue, Ofcom said.

The plans include a total ban on all advertisements for food and drink which are high in fat, salt and sugar at any time of the day, on any channel.

Children's programmes and channels will fall under the ban.

The restrictions were initially going to be aimed at under-9s but this has been extended to under-16s.

Ofcom said consultation would continue on this expansion and would close before Christmas. A final determination will be made in January.

Under the ban, celebrities and characters - including cartoons - would not be allowed to endorse products for younger children.

The Food Standards Agency, as well as health and consumer groups, had called for a 9pm watershed for all junk food commercials.

They said anything less than a pre-9pm ban would not adequately protect older children who watch TV - such as popular soaps - during the evenings.

Ofcom initially dismissed the idea of a watershed as "disproportionate".

Fast food chain Burger King pre-empted Ofcom's announcement earlier this week by saying it would voluntarily drop advertising during children's TV programmes.

The Times, Dec 11th 2006

Shoppers are refusing to break junk food habit

How healthy is your diet?

Healthy and unhealthy shoppers

Shoppers are continuing to pile their trolleys and baskets with unhealthy food, despite the Government’s focus on tackling Britain’s obesity crisis.

A survey of food-buying patterns of 12 million consumers has found that, in the past four years, 44 per cent of people have made no change to their eating habits. Only 8 per cent of shoppers have moved towards a healthier diet, while almost as many are deliberately shunning a good diet and eating more junk food.

Even shoppers who normally try to eat healthily fall off the wagon if there is an upheaval in their lives such as the arrival of a new baby, divorce, a wedding, moving house, losing a job or being promoted at work.

The findings, from dunnhumby, the retail consultants, who have scrutinised the sales data of 10,000 everyday ingredients clocked up on Tesco loyalty cards as well as interviewed 2,000 customers, suggest that it will take more than a generation before Britain becomes a nation of healthy eaters.

The findings will come as a blow to the efforts of Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, and the Food Standards Agency, who are attempting to encourage people to eat a more nutritious diet.

The study also appears to suggest that consumers need the help of the agency’s traffic-light system of red, amber and green alerts on packs to help them to choose a healthier mix of food. The traffic lights are being strongly opposed by food manufacturers and Tesco, who claim that the system is simplistic and demonises food.

A surprising feature of the study is that there is little difference in the cost of a healthy shopping basket and an unhealthy one. A typical healthy basket costs an average £71.78 compared with £71.18 for an unhealthy one.

Healthy shoppers were identified for buying organic and ecofriendly products and food with labels such as fresh, lite or low fat, or food from the healthy-living ranges.

Unhealthy baskets typically contained value or extra lines, indicating that people were looking for the cheapest food that they could find. It suggests that many shoppers still think that healthy eating is expensive. But shoppers also enjoy a treat, and sales of chocolate and alcoholic drinks have shown no decline.

They also like to “scrimp and splurge”. Researchers identified people who chose cheaper products to pay for a treat, either a cream cake, gourmet food for a pet or a DVD.

Martin Hayward, director of consumer strategy for dunnhumby, said: “Most of us are neither totally healthy nor totally unhealthy eaters.”

He said that worry about the cost of food prevented many people from eating healthily and yet the analysis had shown that there was little difference in the price of a healthy versus unhealthy basket.

Mr Hayward said: “We believe the distance between healthy and unhealthy eating is because people don’t know how to cook and have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ approach, making them heavily reliant on processed foods and ready meals.”

The findings are intended to explore new ways to help consumers to eat a healthy diet, he said. The analysis also bolsters policy statements from Tony Blair and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who have promised to bring cookery classes back into schools.

NOVEMBER 9th 2006

Westminster Diet & Health Forum keynote seminar: Food labelling policy – Assessing developments and charting the way forward

Date: 2pm – 5.30pm, 7th November 2006
Venue: Lewis Media Centre, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4RS
Seminar supported by Tesco

This seminar looked in depth at the latest attempts to guide shoppers in their choice of appropriate quality-to-quantity ratio when buying food. I have pasted the index to the to contents of the discussions below (see December 24th), along with my comments for what they are worth, as the full report of proceedings was published on 22 December 2006
The article below is relevant to the argument.

The Times, Dec 11th 2006

Shoppers are refusing to break junk food habit

How healthy is your diet?

Healthy and unhealthy shoppers

Shoppers are continuing to pile their trolleys and baskets with unhealthy food, despite the Government’s focus on tackling Britain’s obesity crisis.

A survey of food-buying patterns of 12 million consumers has found that, in the past four years, 44 per cent of people have made no change to their eating habits. Only 8 per cent of shoppers have moved towards a healthier diet, while almost as many are deliberately shunning a good diet and eating more junk food.

Even shoppers who normally try to eat healthily fall off the wagon if there is an upheaval in their lives such as the arrival of a new baby, divorce, a wedding, moving house, losing a job or being promoted at work.

The findings, from dunnhumby, the retail consultants, who have scrutinised the sales data of 10,000 everyday ingredients clocked up on Tesco loyalty cards as well as interviewed 2,000 customers, suggest that it will take more than a generation before Britain becomes a nation of healthy eaters.

The findings will come as a blow to the efforts of Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, and the Food Standards Agency, who are attempting to encourage people to eat a more nutritious diet.

The study also appears to suggest that consumers need the help of the agency’s traffic-light system of red, amber and green alerts on packs to help them to choose a healthier mix of food. The traffic lights are being strongly opposed by food manufacturers and Tesco, who claim that the system is simplistic and demonises food.

A surprising feature of the study is that there is little difference in the cost of a healthy shopping basket and an unhealthy one. A typical healthy basket costs an average £71.78 compared with £71.18 for an unhealthy one.

Healthy shoppers were identified for buying organic and ecofriendly products and food with labels such as fresh, lite or low fat, or food from the healthy-living ranges.

Unhealthy baskets typically contained value or extra lines, indicating that people were looking for the cheapest food that they could find. It suggests that many shoppers still think that healthy eating is expensive. But shoppers also enjoy a treat, and sales of chocolate and alcoholic drinks have shown no decline.

They also like to “scrimp and splurge”. Researchers identified people who chose cheaper products to pay for a treat, either a cream cake, gourmet food for a pet or a DVD.

Martin Hayward, director of consumer strategy for dunnhumby, said: “Most of us are neither totally healthy nor totally unhealthy eaters.”

He said that worry about the cost of food prevented many people from eating healthily and yet the analysis had shown that there was little difference in the price of a healthy versus unhealthy basket.

Mr Hayward said: “We believe the distance between healthy and unhealthy eating is because people don’t know how to cook and have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ approach, making them heavily reliant on processed foods and ready meals.”

The findings are intended to explore new ways to help consumers to eat a healthy diet, he said. The analysis also bolsters policy statements from Tony Blair and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who have promised to bring cookery classes back into schools.

DECEMBER 24th 2006

I have pasted here the Contents of the published record of the Westminster Diet & Health Forum keynote seminar:
Food labelling policy – Assessing developments and charting the way forward
held at 2pm – 5.30pm, 7th November 2006, Lewis Media Centre, Millbank Tower, London SW1P 4RS
in the hope it may stimulate those interested and concerned with diet and health who happen on this page to purchase the full text of the discussions. This is a complex problem and, as with the global warming problem, there is a lot more to be taken on board if we are not simply to be driven along a painful evolutionary path over which we have no control. I am sure Tesco don't mind having a some arguments to deal with. They did after all sponsor this particular seminar.







DECEMBER 28th 2006
The stage is set for a very big row. Some of our biggest corporations are going to take on the Food Standards Authority head to head. Even more foolishly they are going to take on me. I don't insist on red traffic lights on chocolate, as a matter of fact. A single red light on the confectionary section could suffice as an indicator that these are treats, the best of which are good for you in moderation, but not regular food for nutrition or energy. What I would like to see red traffic lights on are foods with (for example) high glycaemic load, salt and refined carbohydrate which are likely to be consumed regularly by the shopper who supposes they are a vital part fo their necessary, balanced diet. The industry will of course take the extreme case to make their argument. They should not get away with it.

A red light does not mean "Do not buy this item". It is designed to work like this: as your shopping basket fills, as you kitchen cupboards stock up, if there are a lot of red traffic lights on the wrappers you may be getting something seriously wrong. If you then find you are overweight, or sometimes tired and sometimes bad tempered, have headaches or indigestion or a skin or hair health problem, your children an 'attention deficit', then maybe those red traffic lights have something to do with it. Have look. Correct as appropriate. That's all. So c'mon Unilever, Tesco, Kellogs and others. Do you want to go down in history with the other drug barons, as people who went after profit and to hell with the clients, or not? The choice is yours. If you insist, though, we will make it ours.

Food agency takes on industry over junk labels

TV ads to counter multimillion pound campaign by manufacturers

Felicity Lawrence
Thursday December 28, 2006
The Guardian

[Kellogg's, anxious to protect its share of a £1.27bn cereal market, is strongly against the FSA scheme. Photograph: Sean Smith]

Consumers are to be presented with two rival new year advertising campaigns as the Food Standards Agency goes public in its battle with the industry over the labelling of unhealthy foods.

The Guardian has learned that the FSA will launch a series of 10-second television adverts in January telling shoppers how to follow a red, amber and green traffic light labelling system on the front of food packs, which is designed to tackle Britain's obesity epidemic.

The campaign is a direct response to a concerted attempt by leading food manufacturers and retailers, including Kellogg's and Tesco, to derail the system. The industry fears that traffic lights would demonise entire categories of foods and could seriously damage the market for those that are fatty, salty or high in sugar.

The UK market for breakfast cereals is worth £1.27bn a year and the manufacturers fear it will be severely dented if red light labels are put on packaging drawing attention to the fact that the majority are high in salt and/or sugar.

The industry is planning a major marketing campaign for a competing labelling system which avoids colour-coding in favour of information about the percentage of "guideline daily amounts" (GDAs) of fat, salt and sugar contained in their products.

The battle for the nation's diet comes as new rules on television advertising come into force in January which will bar adverts for unhealthy foods from commercial breaks during programmes aimed at children. Sources at the TV regulators are braced for a legal challenge from the industry and have described the lobbying efforts to block any new ad ban or colour-coded labelling as "the most ferocious we've ever experienced".

Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, said: "We are prepared to face up to any legal action from the industry, but we very much hope it will not be necessary." The FSA said it was expecting an onslaught from the industry in January. Senior FSA officials said the manufacturers' efforts to undermine its proposals on labelling could threaten the agency's credibility.

Terrence Collis, FSA director of communications, dismissed claims that the proposals were not based on science. "We have some of the most respected scientists in Europe, both within the FSA and in our independent advisory committees. It is unjustified and nonsensical to attack the FSA's scientific reputation and to try to undermine its credibility."

The FSA is understood to have briefed its ad agency, United, before Christmas, and will aim to air ads that are "non-confrontational, humorous and factual" as a counterweight to industry's efforts about the same time. The agency, however, will have a tiny fraction of the budget available to the industry.

Gavin Neath, chairman of Unilever UK and president of the Food and Drink Federation, has said that the industry has made enormous progress but could not accept red "stop" signs on its food.

Alastair Sykes, chief executive of Nestlé UK, said that under the FSA proposals all his company's confectionery and most of its cereals would score a red. "Are we saying people shouldn't eat confectionery? We're driven by consumers and what they want, and much of what we do has been to make our products healthier," he said.

Chris Wermann, director of communications at Kellogg's, said: "In principle we could never accept traffic light labelling."

The rival labelling scheme introduced by Kellogg's, Danone, Unilever, Nestlé, Kraft and Tesco and now favoured by 21 manufacturers, uses an industry-devised system based on identifying GDAs of key nutrients. Tesco says it has tested both traffic lights and GDA labels in its stores and that the latter increased sales of healthier foods.

But the FSA said it could not live with this GDA system alone because it was "not scientific" or easy for shoppers to understand at a glance.

JANUARY 13th 2007     

The 'Health Research Gap' referred to below amounts to nothing more or less than facing up to simple facts. Many modern humans live unhealthy lives. They breed in unhealthy conditions in inappropriate places and in inappropriate numbers. They are obsessed with their own survival and gratification no matter how sickly or disabled and are encouraged in this by others keen to make a living out of them in politics or medicine or religion. We even have deaf adults trying to give birth to deaf children.  In a ghastly symmetry, in opposition to the desperation of atheists and humanists for the preservation of life at all costs, yet other fanatical movements believe in killing off as many as possible in the nihilistic service of a tribal God. The gap is evidently between our ears. All the research has been done, enhanced and reinforced by every generation since recorded philosophy has existed. I wonder who will pocket this latest £20 million? It seems to be the 'hardnosed' Professor Diamond (great name!) and his team of economists, sociologists and psychologists. How appropriate! We need to find jobs for all these people we have forced through higher education.

£20m to plug health research gap
Research to prevent serious illness will be boosted by a £20m fund to encourage public health projects.

The money will create up to five "Centres of Excellence", helping recruit experts and provide facilities.

Government departments and charities have funded the five-year scheme after a review showed that public health research could be improved.

Ministers say they need increases in disease prevention as part of their plans for the future of the NHS.

The project is being led by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC), following a review led by Professor Ian Diamond.

We need hard-nosed research and we need it urgently
Professor Ian Diamond
Economic and Social Research Council

He found that there was an urgent need for more public health research to tackle issues such as smoking and obesity, and that extra support would be needed to make this happen.

He stressed the need for the projects to involve not just health researchers, but experts from a wide variety of disciplines, such as economists, sociologists and psychologists to "maximise the effectiveness" of their plans.

He said: "We already know that the reasons for obesity are primarily a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise - but we want to develop effective ways to encourage people into healthier lifestyles.

"We need hard-nosed research and we need it urgently."


The UKCRC is inviting centres interested in launching research to bid for up to £5m over five years.

This exciting new initiative will energise the field by bringing together leading experts from a range of disciplines
Professor John Toy
Cancer Research UK

Professor Diamond, who represents the Economic and Social Research Council on the UKCRC, said: "There have been big improvements in health and life expectancy over the last century, however the UK still faces challenges to ensure that as a society we benefit from longer and healthier lives.

"When we've talked to people, they've told us that not enough has been invested in the past in research to get the most out of public health."

'Firm foundation'

UKCRC chief executive Dr Liam O'Toole added: "Together the funders are committed to tackling the key issues needed to build a firm foundation for the future of public health research in the UK."

Would-be bidders have until only the end of March 2007 to suggest projects to receive financial support, and funding decisions will be made at the end of 2007.

Following a report published in 2004, the government has placed greater emphasis on prevention as part of its strategy for the NHS.

It says that by cutting smoking, drinking and obesity, many conditions which require expensive, long-term treatment in hospitals or the community could be removed altogether or their impact lessened.

Professor John Toy, from Cancer Research UK, one of the project funders, said that more than half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle.

He said: "This exciting new initiative will energise the field by bringing together leading experts from a range of disciplines to develop new directions for research and train the next generation of researchers."

The British Heart Foundation has contributed £2.5m to the project. The foundation's associate medical director, Jeremy Pearson, said: "We hope the results will have a major impact on influencing future policies to improve the nation's heart health."

FEBRUARY 14th 2007


UK is accused of failing children
The UK has been accused of failing its children, as it comes bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries.

Unicef looked at 40 indicators from the years 2000-2003 including poverty, peer and family relationships, and health.

One of the report's authors told the BBC that under-investment and a "dog eat dog" attitude in society were to blame for Britain's poor performance.

The government says its policies have helped to improve child welfare.

Unicef - the United Nations children's organisation - says the report, titled Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries, is the first study of childhood across the world's industrialised nations.

Not enough parental time is spent in bringing up our children
John Nicholls, Altrincham

Unicef UK executive director David Bull said all the countries had weaknesses that needed to be addressed.

"By comparing the performance of countries we see what is possible with a commitment to supporting every child to fulfil his or her full potential," he said.

The authors say they used the most up to date information available to assess "whether children feel loved, cherished, special and supported, within the family and community, and whether the family and community are being supported in this task by public policy and resources".

But they added: "The process of international comparison can never be freed from questions of translation, culture, and custom."

OECD countries with insufficient data to be included in the overview included Australia, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Turkey.

'Dog eat dog society'

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw from York University, one of the report's authors, put the UK's poor ratings down to long term underinvestment.

"It's very difficult to answer the why question. But if you're asking what is the main driver of these results, it's the fact that for a long time children in Britain have been under-invested in; not enough has been spent on them."

He said child poverty rates were falling but were twice as high as in 1979, while the government was "only just beginning" to put money into health and education.

The Unicef study found Britain had the lowest proportion of children who found their friends kind and helpful - 40%, compared to 80% in Switzerland, he went on.

Professor Bradshaw said that this was an indication of a "dog eat dog society".

He added: "In a society which is very unequal, with high levels of poverty, it leads on to what children think about themselves and their lives. That's really what's at the heart of this."

We simply cannot ignore these shocking findings
Bob Reitemeier
Children's Society

The UK was in the bottom third for five out of the six categories. It was placed in the middle third of the table for health and safety.

A spokesman for the UK government said its initiatives in areas such as poverty, pregnancy rates, teenage smoking, drinking and risky sexual behaviour had helped improve children's welfare.

Welfare Reform Minister Jim Murphy said the Unicef study was an "historic" report, which used some data which was now out of date.

"It looks at some information and analysis from perhaps six, seven, eight years ago," he told the BBC's Newsnight. "Some of the information really is out of date in that sense.

"If you look at the teenage pregnancies issue, for example, we're now 20 years low on teenage pregnancy levels, and on homelessness as well there's been real progress there as well - a 25-year low in terms of new homelessness, so there's an awful lot we have achieved."

1. Netherlands
2. Sweden
3. Denmark
4. Finland
5. Spain
6. Switzerland
7. Norway
8. Italy
9. Republic of Ireland
10. Belgium
11. Germany
12. Canada
13. Greece
14. Poland
15. Czech Republic
16. France
17. Portugal
18. Austria
19. Hungary
20. United States
21. United Kingdom
Source: Unicef

He did acknowledged the Unicef report was important.

"Hopefully it leads to a wider conversation about what more we can do to eradicate poverty," he said.

Unicef's league table drew on sources including the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the World Health Organization's survey of Health Behaviour in School-age Children (HBSC) aged 11, 13 and 15.

However, the information attributed to the UK in the HBSC survey is only taken from responses of residents of England.

Unicef also said some PISA indicators for the UK should be treated with caution due to low sample response rates.

Website survey

The Children's Society has launched a website to coincide with the report,, which allows children to answer a series of surveys about their lives.

The society's chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: "We simply cannot ignore these shocking findings.

"Unicef's report is a wake-up call to the fact that, despite being a rich country, the UK is failing children and young people in a number of crucial ways."

The Children's Commissioner for England, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said the report's findings should be a wake-up call to politicians and society as a whole.

"We are turning out a generation of young people who are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in risky behaviour, who have poor relationships with their family and their peers, who have low expectations and don't feel safe."

He said parents, teachers, politicians and society as a whole all had a role to play in nurturing children and helping them to develop into successful adults.

Material well-being
Family and peer relationships
Health and safety
Behaviour and risks
Own sense of well-being [educational]
Own sense of well-being [subjective]

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Colette Marshall, UK director of Save the Children, said it was "shameful" to see the UK at the bottom of the table.

"This report shows clearly that despite the UK's wealth, we are failing to give children the best possible start in life," she said.

"The UK government is not investing enough in the well-being of children, especially to combat poverty and deprivation."

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne accused Chancellor Gordon Brown of having "failed this generation of children".

"After 10 years of his welfare and education policies, our children today have the lowest well-being in the developed world," said Mr Osborne.

UK child poverty has doubled since 1979
Children living in homes earning less than half national average wage - 16%
Children rating their peers as "kind and helpful" - 43%
Families eating a meal together "several times" a week - 66%
Children who admit being drunk on two or more occasions - 31%

He also said government could encourage parents to have greater involvement with their children through "a framework of more flexible working".

But he added: "I don't actually think government has the answer to all these problems."

A spokeswoman for the government said it regarded the improvement of the life of British children as a matter of particular importance.

"Nobody can dispute that improving children's well-being is a real priority for this government," she said.

FEBRUARY 16th 2007            Good. A bit of support on labelling from sensible people in the National Heart Forum

Nobody can use the GDA system as a guide. The FSA system is simple. If you find your shopping basket has too many red lights, and you are overweigt or not feeling to fit, you can see what to do about it. If neither of these things apply, then no need to worry. Working out what to buy by examining GDA percentages is something people can do without.

Food labels branded 'misleading'
The food industry is misleading consumers with its new food labelling system, a report claims.

The National Heart Forum says the scheme, adopted by at least 21 leading food companies, makes food look healthier than it actually is.

The labels show percentages of guideline daily amounts (GDA) of sugar, salt, fat and calories per serving.

This is in opposition to the government-backed traffic light labelling system.

The Food Standards Association's traffic light system uses red, amber and green labels - where green is good and red warns not to consume too much.

The GDA campaign is supported by a coalition of the UK's biggest food and drink manufacturers as well as supermarkets Tesco, Somerfield and Morrison.

The GDA scheme is too complex to be used quickly and easily by consumers
Jane Landon, deputy chief executive for the NHF

Members of the GDA group say consumers find the percentages of GDAs easier to understand than the FSA's "traffic light" system.

But supporters of the FSA's traffic light system - used by firms including Sainsbury's, Waitrose, the Co-Op, Marks and Spencer and Asda - say the GDA system is flawed because many consumers do not understand percentages.

The NHF report criticises some companies for misleading consumers by presenting nutritional information in an "overly complex" way.

Jane Landon, deputy chief executive for the NHF, said: "We believe that the GDA scheme is too complex to be used quickly and easily by consumers across all social and ethnic groups.

"With as little as four seconds for each purchase, what consumers need to be able to see 'at a glance' on the front of the pack is whether a product is high, medium or low in key nutrients.

"Guideline Daily Amounts represent population goals for particular nutrients.

"Presenting these as percentages on the front of food packaging suggests to the consumer that these are daily targets.

"Without reading the small print on the back of the packet it is not clear that for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt these figures represent limits rather than targets."

The report suggests some food giants appeared to be manipulating the front-of-pack label to promote their products rather than to inform their customers.

It says that in cases of products clearly targeted at children, such as some cereals, the GDAs used on the packs are for adults.

Kellogg's communications director Chris Wermann said: "We are looking to see whether we can provide children's GDAs too, but have to bear in mind that 65% of Frosties, for example, are eaten by men over 18."

Tesco defended the GDA scheme saying there was compelling research that customers find GDAs helpful.

A spokesman said: "We refute the idea that the GDA labelling scheme is complex and misleading.

"They are helping customers to make healthier choices because they are easy to understand and by giving the actual data rather than just a colour customers are able to make informed decisions.

"The criticisms raised by NHF are wrong - arguably traffic light alternatives are more misleading as the colours are based on portion sizes of 100g/100ml's regardless of the portion size."


Women Men
Energy (Calories) 2,000 2,500
Protein 45g 55g
Carbohydrate 230g 300g
of which sugars 90g 120g
Fat 70g 95g
of which saturates 20g 30g
Fibre 24g 24g
Sodium 2.4g 2.4g
Equivalent as salt 6g 6g
Source: Institute of Grocery Distribution


Per 100g
Per 100g
Per 100g
Fat 0-3g Between 3g
and 20g
20g and over
Saturated fat 0-1.5g Between 1.5g
and 5g
5g and over
Total sugars 0-5g Between 5g
and 15g
15g and over
Salt 0-0.3g Between 0.3g
and 1.5g
1.5g and over
Source: Food Standards Agency

FEBRUARY 18th 2007

The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 is always worth listening to, but this edition is critical,
as is
Feeding People is Easy by Colin Tudge published by Pari Publishing SAS in April 2007, ISBN 978-88-901960-8-9.

The Food Programme
Sunday 12:30-13:00,
Rpt Monday 16:00-16:30

Programme details
Sunday 18 February 2007
Traditional aquaculture in the Dombes region of France
Sheila Dillon discusses old and new factory farming

This week: Old, New Factory Farming

Should we change how we mass-produce our food? Sheila Dillon explores options, like the validity of traditional methods.

Reporter Jean Snedegar talks to farmer Joel Salatin. 

Sheila Dillon speaks to Professor Wayne Teel, who teaches in the department of Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University in Virginia.

Reporter Ray Kershaw talks to historian and fish farmer, Philipe Machenay, about the production of 8000 tonnes of fish in the 1200 lakes of the Dombes region in eastern France near Lyon, a system which is at least 800 years old. They are joined by some fishermen for the annual harvest.

Sheila talks to Professor Bob Orskov of the McCauley Institute near Aberdeen who has been working with rice farmers in Vietnam.

Sheila is joined in the studio by Peter Bradnock, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council and science writer, Colin Tudge.

 Further information
Polyface Farms

Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University in Virginia

British Poultry Council


Feeding People is Easy by Colin Tudge published by Pari Publishing SAS in April 2007,
ISBN 978-88-901960-8-9.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites

FEBRUARY 22nd 2007
I like to think that this is also a fruit of our efforts.

Junk food TV adverts to be curbed

The Press Association Thursday February 22, 09:40 PM

Television commercials promoting unhealthy food and drinks will be banned during programmes aimed at children up to the age of 16 in a bid to cut childhood obesity, Ofcom has announced.

The media watchdog said from April this year, advertising for products which were high in fat, salt and sugar, and which would particularly appeal to children, must not be shown in or around programmes for those under the age of 10.

From the beginning of January 2008, a total ban will come into force for advertising junk food during programmes aimed at or which appeal to under-16s.

The restrictions apply to food and drinks products which are assessed as being high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) by the Food Standards Agency.

The aim of the ban is to reduce children's exposure to the adverts in a bid to stem the rise of childhood obesity.

Children's channels will be allowed a phase-in period for the new regulations, which must be fully implemented by the end of December 2008.

In addition, celebrities and characters - such as cartoon favourites - will be banned from promoting junk foods in advertising to children.

The new content rules, which also include a ban on promotional offers and health claims in HFSS product advertising, come into force immediately for new advertising campaigns, and by July for existing campaigns.

This final determination by Ofcom follows a review of the new rules, which were announced in November last year.

The restrictions were initially going to be aimed at children aged under nine, but Ofcom confirmed the expansion of the proposals to include all under 16s.

MARCH 15th 2007

          The Shadow Health Minister complains:
                There is no question that the Government has not done enough and what they have done has not been done quickly enough.

I dont know where Mr Murrison hid his head over the past few years but he must have hid it somewhere if he thinks the government could have done more, faster, to deal with this problem in a country where the smallest attempt to advise people that their behaviour is suicidal is classed as interference by a 'Nanny State'. The Medical Research Council and Dr Susan Jebb in particularly have worked tirelessly to discover why pointing out the obvious, ever more clearly and with increasingly effective publicity now that the media have at last got the message, does not get the expected response from a significant section of the public it is aimed at.

Now it seems there is an explanation. Just as anorexics see themselves as fat when they are normal, the obese see themselves as normal.when they are fat. Obesity follows, and they don't recognise that either.

Parents 'don't recognise obesity'
The government is launching a plan to tackle obesity by helping parents recognise the warning signs that their children are overweight.

It follows a claim by the Medical Research Council that many people do not know their children are overweight.

The Department of Health has pledged to do more in the next year to support parents in encouraging healthy eating and physical activity.

But critics said the government had not acted quickly enough to tackle obesity.

The government has set a target of halting the yearly rise in rates of obesity in the under-11s by 2010.

There is no question that the Government has not done enough and what they have done has not been done quickly enough
Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Murrison

But Dr Susan Jebb and colleagues from the Human Nutrition Research unit at the MRC found several major barriers were preventing families from adopting healthy lifestyles even though they knew the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

Their review of the evidence showed people have a poor perception of their own weight status and are even worse at spotting when their child is overweight or obese.

Busy lifestyles, irregular working hours and fears that having a healthy lifestyle is too difficult to achieve also put people off healthy choices.

According to the MRC report, average time spent preparing meals has fallen from two hours to just 20 minutes over the past two decades.

And safety concerns prevent children being allowed to walk to school or play outside.


One of the biggest problems facing parents is their child's willingness to accept new foods.

Trying to coax children to eat healthily often takes a backseat to trying to have a pleasant mealtime, said the researchers.

Dr Jebb said 80% of parents recognised that an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity contributed to obesity.

"But people don't necessarily realise that it applies to their child," she said.

"More than 40% of children over the age of six choose their evening meal on half of all occasions but they lack the skills to choose wisely.

"It's not surprising that parents try to avoid conflict to make a pleasant atmosphere at home but it leads to a lack of exposure and familiarity with different foods."

Launching the Government's Healthy Living Programme, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said they would be rolling out a series of initiatives to support families, such as 'Top Tips for Top Mums' to help families share ideas for getting children to eat fruit and vegetables.

"We're not short of information but the information hasn't always been leading to behaviour change," she said.

"This is where the theory becomes reality - something that is really meaningful for people."

Andrew Murrison, the shadow health minister, said: "There is no question that the government has not done enough and what they have done has not been done quickly enough.

"When it comes to implementation they have failed so far."

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said obesity had been a priority for the government but nothing to date had made the slightest bit of difference because of a lack of concrete ideas.

"At least they're putting measures in place to try and actively do something," he added.

Irish EU's 'worst binge-drinkers'
Ireland has the highest rates of binge-drinking in the European Union, a survey exploring attitudes to alcohol has indicated.

Finland and Britain came second and third in the Eurobarometer survey.

In Italy and Greece, by comparison, only 2% of people said they did binge-drink - defined as having five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

The survey comes just a few days before Ireland, and much of the world, celebrates Saint Patrick's Day.

Ireland 34%
Finland 27%
UK 24%
Denmark 23%
Portugal 4%
Italy & Greece 2%
Source: Eurobarometer

Binge-drinking is a particular problem among young people, with almost a fifth of the 15-24 age group usually binge-drinking when consuming alcohol, according to the results of the survey on attitudes towards alcohol, presented by the European Commission on Thursday.

According to the data, men drink more than women, and one in 10 Europeans usually drinks five or more drinks in one session.

Almost eight out of 10 Europeans agree with putting warnings on alcohol bottles and adverts to warn pregnant women and drivers of the dangers of drinking alcohol.

Irish debate

One in three Irish people questioned in the EU survey regularly binge-drink.

In Ireland, there is an ongoing public debate about attitudes to alcohol, especially among young people, says the BBC's James Helm in Dublin.

The Catholic Church has added its voice to those warning of the dangers to society of alcohol abuse.

Saint Patrick's Day on 17 March, the feast day for Ireland's patron saint, can be the cue for heavy drinking.

In recent years there has been much concern about underage drinking on Irish streets on Saint Patrick's Day and some of the resulting problems, including violence, our correspondent says.

This year, police will patrol outside many off-licences where alcohol is sold and there have been calls for stores selling alcoholic drinks to restrict their opening hours in order to try to prevent excessive drinking.

Why a glass of grape may be best way to start your day

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, The Independent

Published: 15 March 2007

If you think a glass of breakfast orange juice is the best way to start the day, think again. Grape juice could be more beneficial.

Scientists have carried out the first scientific analysis of fruit juices to measure their antioxidant activity - the anti-ageing compounds that protect against heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Top of the league is purple grape juice followed by apple juice and cranberry juice, according to the study by researchers at the University of Glasgow. Orange juice, the most popular fruit juice, comes way down the league. It contains fewer polyphenols than the other juices tested, which are strong antioxidants.

Alan Crozier, professor of plant biochemistry and human nutrition who led the study, said: "Not all fruit juices are the same. The findings reveal that the variety of phenolic compounds and antioxidant capacity of the individual juices varied markedly."

"Purple grape juice made with Concord grapes contains the highest and broadest range of polyphenols as well as having the highest antioxidant capacity. Other high-ranking products include cloudy apple juice and cranberry juice drink."

The research was funded by the National Grape Co-operative, a consortium of farmers in the US owned by Welch's, makers of Concord purple grape juice. It is published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

The finding comes in the wake of research by US scientists which showed an association between long-term fruit juice consumption and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers who followed almost 2,000 volunteers for up to 10 years found the risk of Alzheimer's was 76 per cent lower for those who drank juices more than three times a week compared with those who drank them less than once a week.

The Glasgow study suggests these protective effects may be strengthened by consumption of a combination of juices with a high concentration and broad range of polyphenolic antioxidants.

Antioxidants are compounds such as vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables which are believed to play a key role by protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, the products of metabolism. By quenching free radicals they help to maintain oxidative balance and prevent the development of diseases including cancer and heart disease.

Professor Crozier said: "Supplementing a healthy diet with a regular intake of a variety of fruit juices such as purple grape juice, grapefruit juice, cloudy apple juice and cranberry juice,will increase the consumer's intake of phenolic antioxidants. The message is to mix these juices during the week. That way you will get all the compounds with anti-oxidant activity. If you drink only one juice you risk missing out on the compounds in the others."

He said Welch's had asked his research team to measure the antioxidant activity in 13 of the most popular fruit juices in Britain.

"The paper we have published is as we wrote it. If Welch's had written it they would have said drink only Concord grape juice."

The findings also revealed the number and level of antioxidant phenolic compounds in purple grape juice equates with those found in a Beaujolais red wine.

The juice league table

Millimoles per litre of phenolic anti-oxidants:

1 Purple Grape 0.98

Made from grapes with dark flesh which have the highest level of anti-oxidants

2 Cloudy Apple 0.67

Cloudy apple juice has four times the level of anti-oxidants of clear apple juice.

3 Pomegranate 0.45

One of the newest juices on the market. Has a high anti-oxidant content.

4 Cranberry 0.32

Known for its health-giving benefits, especially as a treatment for cystitis in women.

5 Grapefruit 0.30

Interacts with some medicines reducing their effectiveness.

6 Clear Apple 0.26

Processes used to remove the pulp, which makes juice cloudy, remove the anti-oxidants

7 Tropical 0.12

Mixed fruit juice that contains a range of anti-oxidant compounds - but made from juices that have low levels

8= Orange, Pineapple, Tomato, Red Grape, White Grape less than 0.1

These juices are still fine to drink - they just pack less of a health punch than those at the top of the table.

JULY 4th 2007

We are always being told not to 'nanny' the public, not to patronise, and to appreciate that our children are much more intelligent than they are given credit for. Well it may be that the UK is not so far down the slope as the USA, but if the following contains more truth than lies it confirms my suspicion that an increasingly large percentage of young people are either very stupid or have lost the will to live or both. As to whose fault that is, that is another question, but most would blame the parents. Since one of the reasons for this stupidity is eating the wrong food, we are faced with a circular problem here from which there is no recovery other than by enforced proper nutrition.

Review finds nutrition education failing

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer Wed Jul 4, 5:06 PM ET

The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education — fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well.

But an Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat — or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

"Any person looking at the published literature about these programs would have to conclude that they are generally not working," said Dr. Tom Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine who studies behavioral nutrition.

The results have been disappointing, to say the least:

_Last year a major federal pilot program offering free fruits and vegetables to school children showed fifth graders became less willing to eat them than they had been at the start. Apparently they didn't like the taste.

_In Pennsylvania, researchers went so far as to give prizes to school children who ate fruits and vegetables. That worked while the prizes were offered, but when the researchers came back seven months later the kids had reverted to their original eating habits: soda and chips.

_In studies where children tell researchers they are eating better or exercising more, there is usually no change in blood pressure, body size or cholesterol measures; they want to eat better, they might even think they are, but they're not.

The studies don't tell Leticia Jenkins anything she doesn't know. She's one of the bravest teachers in America — not because she gave her seventh and eighth graders 30 sharp knives to chop tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and limes for a lesson on salsa and nutrition, but because she understands the futility of what she is trying to do.

"Oh, it's so hard, because at the end of the day sometimes I take a moment, I think gosh, I did all this and we still see them across the street picking up the doughnuts and the coffee drinks," she said.

Nationally, obesity rates have nearly quintupled among 6- to 11-year-olds and tripled among teens and children ages 2 to 5 since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The medical consequences of obesity in the U.S. — diabetes, high blood pressure, even orthopedic problems — cost an estimated $100 billion a year. Kentucky cardiologist Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., nominated as the next surgeon general, says fighting childhood obesity is his top priority.

The challenges to changing the way children eat are as numerous as the factors that have prompted the obesity epidemic in the first place.

The forces that make kids fat "are really strong and hard to fight with just a program in school," said Dr. Philip Zeitler, a pediatric endocrinologist and researcher who sees "a steady stream" of obese children struggling with diabetes and other potentially fatal medical problems at The Children's Hospital in Denver.

What does he tell them?

"Oh God, I haven't figured out anything that I know is going to work," he said. "I'm not aware of any medical model that is very successful in helping these kids. Sure, we try to help them, but I can't take credit for the ones who do manage to change."

The obstacles are daunting:

PARENTS. Experts agree that although most funding targets schools, parents have the greatest influence, even a biological influence, over what their children will eat. Zeitler says when children slim down, it's because "their families get religion about this and figure out what needs to happen."

But often, they don't.

"If the mother is eating Cheetos and white bread, the fetus will be born with those taste buds. If the mother is eating carrots and oatmeal the child will be born with those taste buds," said Dr. Robert Trevino of the Social and Health Research Center in San Antonio.

Most kids learn what tastes good and what tastes nasty by their 10th birthdays.

"If we don't reach a child before they get to puberty, it's going to be very tough, very difficult, to change their eating behavior," said Trevino.

POVERTY. Poorer kids are especially at risk, because unhealthy food is cheaper and more easily available than healthy food. Parents are often working, leaving children unsupervised to get their own snacks. Low-income neighborhoods have fewer good supermarkets with fresh produce.

"If Mom can't find tomatoes in her local grocery store, nothing is going to change," said Zeitler.

Meanwhile, it's harder for children to exercise on their own. Parks often aren't safe and sports teams cost money.

"Calorie burning has become the province of the wealthy," said Zeitler. "I fear that what we're going to see is a divergence of healthy people and unhealthy people. Basically, like everything else, it costs money to be healthy."

ADVERTISING. Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 television ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food — more than 7,600 a year, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study. Not one of the 8,854 ads reviewed promoted fruits or vegetables.

There was one ad for healthy foods for every 50 for other foods.

Children may be the best sources to explain why lessons about nutrition don't sink in.

"I think it's because they like it so much, because like, I don't know if you've seen the new hot Cheetos that are like puffs? Oh my God, they're so good. Like everyone at the school has them and they're so good," said Ani Avanessian, 14, of Panorama City.

Her classmate George Rico, a 13-year-old whose mother is a manager at a McDonald's, said he loves his nutrition class. But does it affect what he puts in his mouth?

"Well, no, but it makes me think about what I eat," he said. "I think kids don't change because they've been eating it for so long they're just accustomed to eating that way."

Their teacher, Jenkins, offers fact-filled and engaging nutrition lessons as part of a $7 million USDA program which reaches about 388,000 students a year in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The most recent evaluation of the 8-year-old program was disheartening: no difference in the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by kids participating in the program and those who weren't. Teachers who spent more hours on nutrition education had no greater impact than those who didn't. And parent behavior didn't change either.

"It's true, it didn't change what they actually eat. But the program really made a difference in how kids were feeling about fruits and vegetables. They really had a more positive attitude toward fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Mike Prelip, a UCLA researcher who headed up the evaluation.

Kate Houston, deputy under secretary of the USDA's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, oversees most federal funds, $696 million this year, spent on childhood nutrition education in this country. Funding has steadily increased in recent years, up from $535 million in 2003. Houston insists the programs are successful.

"I think the question here is how are we measuring success and there are certainly many ways in which you can do so and the ways in which we've been able to measure have shown success," she said.

But isn't the goal of these programs to change the way kids eat?

"Absolutely that's the goal," she said.

And they're successfully reaching that goal?

"We're finding success in things in which we have been able to measure, which are more related to knowledge and skill. It is more difficult for us to identify success in changing children's eating patterns."

When asked about the many studies that don't show improvement, Houston asked for copies of the research. And she said the USDA doesn't have the resources to undertake "long term, controlled, medical modeled studies" necessary to determine the impact of its programs.

Doctors like Tom Robinson, who directs the Center for Healthy Weight at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University, said those studies aren't needed. The research has already shown they don't work.

"I think the money could be better spent on programs that are more behaviorally oriented, as opposed to those that are educationally oriented, or studies that just describe the problem over and over again," he said.

There may be pieces of solutions found in limited studies currently being tested around the country. In some situations, obese and overweight children can lose weight and get healthy through rigorous hospital and clinic-based interventions that involve regular check-ins, family involvement, scheduled exercise and nutrition education.

School programs that increase physical activity are also more likely to have an impact than nutrition education.

This spring the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced plans to spend $500 million over the next five years to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. It will fund programs that bring supermarkets into poor neighborhoods, studies that measure the weight of children who exercise more at school, meetings of advocates who are seeking to restrict junk food ads.

One thing it won't fund: projects that only provide school nutrition education.

AUGUST 14th 2007
The expression 'pot belly' may be misleading here. It is fat in the general area of the waist which is at issue, front, back and side.

Pot belly linked to heart disease
Even a small pot belly can increase the risk of heart disease, scientists warn.

Research from the University of Texas found large waist measurements, relative to hip size, were linked to early signs of heart disease.

This confirms other research that waist size, rather than overall body weight, is a key indicator of heart disease.

The study of 2,744 people suggests that a waist size of 32ins (81cm) for a woman and 37ins (94cm) for a man represents a "significant" raised risk.

The report was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Even a small pot belly puts us at higher risk when compared to a flat tummy
Professor James de Lemos

The authors looked at men and women who underwent medical tests and imaging scans to identify the early signs of atherosclerosis - the narrowing and hardening of the arteries linked to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Body shape important

They then examined the relationship between the participants' body shapes and the presence of atherosclerosis.

They found adding a few inches to the waist increased the risk of damage in the arteries, even if body weight remained within the normal range.

People with the largest waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs) were almost twice as likely to have calcium deposits, which indicate the onset of atherosclerosis, in the arteries of their hearts, as those with the smallest WHRs.

And even when other risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes and age were taken into account, the link remained strong.

Professor James de Lemos, who led the research, said: "Fat that accumulates around your waist seems to be more biologically active as it secretes inflammatory proteins that contribute to atherosclerotic plaque build-up, whereas fat around your hips doesn't appear to increase risk for cardiovascular disease at all.

"We think the key message for people is to prevent accumulation of central fat early on in their lives.

"Even a small pot belly puts us at higher risk when compared to a flat tummy."

Abdominal fat risks

And waist-to-hip ratio was more closely linked to these early signs of heart disease than either body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference alone.

BMI is widely used to assess relative body weight, and is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres.

June Davison, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing heart disease.

"The risks are even higher when fat is mainly concentrated around the abdomen.

"What's important is that people consider their body shape as well as their weight.

"Controlling both by eating less and being more active is an effective way to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease."

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of charity Weight Concern, said even just measuring waist circumference could be useful to assess abdominal fat levels and risks of disease.

He said: "The beauty of it is that it is simple, reproducible, and both patients and doctors/nurses can measure and understand it."

Previous studies have suggested that a waist circumference of over 35in (88.9cm) for a woman, and 40in (101.6cm) for a man indicates a high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Even a waist circumference of 32in (81.3cm) for a woman, and 37in (94cm) for a man represents a "significant" raised risk.

AUGUST 15th 2007
On the today programme this morning we had a 'doctor' explaining to Jim Naughtie how they had discovered, by feeding junk food to rats during pregnancy, that they produced fat, junk-food addicted offspring. Naughtie remarked that pregnant women often craved unusual foods during pregnancy, different to their usual diet. "Yes, we don't understand that" replied the 'doctor'.

Good grief!! Neither doctor nor Naughtie seem to have a clue about knowledge established millennia ago. The new dietary cravings of a pregnant mother are because she has a new life growing in her with new demands. It is not a clone, and it is not in the same stage of life as the mother. If it had exactly the same dietary demands, then that would be impossible to explain! The mother has to pass what is called for. That may entail modifying her own metabolism to adjust for pregnancy and also ingesting certain things for more direct passage to the embryo.

As for the mother's junk diet having an effect on the appetites of the baby, there was not need to do the experiment. It is common knowledge that a baby is prepared for the world it is to be born into - that is what is going on during the period of gestation. The inherited possibilities are worked on by the environmental input from the mother, which is affected by the environment of the mother and her behaviour at the time in relation to that environment. This can extend from diet to listening to music, singing/dancing/playing etc, availability of food (quantity/quality), calmness/violence, security/insecurity.

All this stuff is common knowledge. Can we please get off the ground floor of listening to stupid old duffers and young idiots arguing about matters resolved before they were born, and so called scientists and doctors wasting tax-payers money and being held up as pioneers on our national broadcasting system? It's pathetic. Here's the Sky News report. News? I think not.

Babies Learn To Like Junk Food In The Womb

By Sky News SkyNews - Wednesday, August 15 04:30 am

Pregnant women who "eat for two" by upping their intake of fatty and sugary food could unwittingly be putting their children at risk of obesity, new research suggests.

The same applies to mothers who are breastfeeding, scientists have warned.

Unborn babies and developing infants can have their eating habits programmed by their mothers' food choices, according to the findings.

Children exposed to "maternal junk food" in the womb or early in life may find it harder to resist an unhealthy diet as they grow older, say the researchers.

Dr Stephanie Bayol, from the Royal Veterinary College in London, said: "Our study has shown that eating large quantities of junk food when pregnant and breastfeeding could impair the normal control of appetite and promote an exacerbated taste for junk food in offspring."

Controlling appetite involves hormones which act on the brain to regulate energy balance, hunger and satiety - the sensation of "feeling full".

However feeding is not merely mechanical. It is partly governed by "reward centres" in the brain whose pleasure responses may override normal "feeling full" signals.

Previous research has shown that junk foods rich in fat and sugar inhibit satiety while promoting hunger and stimulating the reward centres.

The new research, carried out on rats, indicates that even before birth, exposure to junk food may induce an unhealthy taste for fatty, sugary treats.

Writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, the scientists said the same kind of trends could be expected in humans.

Dr Bayol said: "Exposure to a maternal junk food diet during their foetal and suckling life might help explain why some individuals might find it harder than others to control their junk food intake even when given access to healthier foods later in life."

OCTOBER 15th 2007

Brown: 'Tackle childhood obesity quickly'


Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the "huge" childhood obesity issue needs to be tackled quickly and "in a "number of different ways".

Half the population will be obese within 25 years if current trends continue, according to the stark findings of a new Government study.

Mr Brown's comments came during a visit to specialist sports school, the Harris Girls' Academy in East Dulwich, south London.

He said: "There are more school playing fields now. There is a wider range of sport in schools. Girls might be more interested in netball and yoga. It's one of the answers to childhood obesity."

The Premier, who revealed he uses a treadmill to keep fit, also said more needed to be done on food labelling to help parents make the right decisions for their children.

He said: "I want to see a young nation growing up that's healthy and fit. Sometimes if you don't deal with the problem quickly...then it just grows and grows and grows and gets worse."

Having invested £2.3 billion in PE over the last ten years, Mr Brown announced that Labour will provide an extra £100 million this year to try to broaden the range of sports available to children.

But, Mr Brown described as "phenomenal" the rise in students doing more than two hours of sport a week, from 20 per cent ten years ago to 86 per cent now.

He added: "When I was at school one child in the class was very fat and it was a problem for them. Now there are four or five in the class and it's a big problem for them," he added.

Mr Brown, who joined pupils at the school's breakfast club, eating croissants and grapes and drinking hot chocolate, then toured the school's new gym facilities with Olympic gold medal winner Dame Kelly Holmes.

Earlier, a representative for nurses at 2,500 UK schools, said they must be better equipped to help tackle the epidemic.

Ros Godson, from the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA) is due to call for every school to have its own equipment to weigh and measure children.

She will also tell delegates at the National Obesity Forum's (NOF) fifth annual conference, in London, that school nurses should be given a dedicated area to work to ensure confidentiality.


SEE also