Writing articles and doing videos on health is all well and good, but often these are found by healthy people, or at least people who are already making diet and lifestyle changes. I think it is time for a more concerted effort to be made to tackle what I think is the biggest health problem in the UK – obesity.
A survey in 2008/9 showed that approximately 23% of the UK population is obese. Since then obesity has increased, and current estimates suggest that the figure will double by 2050, meaning almost half the population will be obese.
Around a similar time to that survey being conducted, a study estimated that obesity/ being overweight cost the NHS £5.1 billion a year, on top of this, lack of physical activity and poor diet costs the NHS a £6.7 billion, totaling £11.8 billion. This figure is increasing, and by 2050, unless habits change as a country, this figure will reach £26.6 billion. This is on top of the estimated £2.6 billion+ cost to the UK economy which obesity caused in 2006.
Poor diet and lifestyle choices are crippling the country, and will continue to do so.
This is despite efforts by the government to encourage the public to make healthier diet and lifestyle choices, the most well publicized being the 5-a-day campaign and Change 4 Life. These schemes are put into action at the expense of UK tax payers, and seem ineffective at stopping this juggernaut of public health destruction. This is at a time when the NHS is experiencing sever financial difficulties.
No one wants to be obese, or at least, I can’t imagine why people would want to. It makes simple tasks such as standing up painful and difficult, breathing is hard work and it leads to a number of additional health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and inflammation. The problem as I see it, is highly processed foods, particularly ones high in sugar. Sugar is addictive, and cheap, which results on massive over consumption. Time and time and time and time again we see clinical trials showing sugar addiction is real, yet consumption is so tightly entwined into our day to day living and culture it is not regulated as it should be.
Aim: To have the bellow points discussed in the House of Commons, and ultimately have sugar foods/ drinks regulated. The desired result of this will be a significant reduction of sugar consumption in the UK. This will improve public health by reducing the incidence of obesity and related diseases.
Requirements: In order to have this e-petition discussed in the House of Commons, we require 100,000 signatures (so get sharing!)
Key areas for discussion:
An increased tax on high sugar drinks, specifically carbonated drinks such as coca-cola.
The UK spent £15 billion on carbonated drinks in 2012 according the the 2013 soft drinks report. If there was a 10% tax on these sales, it would either provide the UK with an additional £1.5 billion in taxes, or reduce public consumption. One can of coke alone contains 33g of sugar, which is over 8 teaspoons of sugar.
- An alternative to this, would be a minimum cost per gram of sugar, similar to the minimum price per unit of alcohol which was proposed in late 2012. This will still help to deter the public of over consumption of these sugary drink which is the main aim of this.
An increased tax on fast foods, and highly processed foods
A figure is very difficult to put on this, but a fair estimate is that £51 billion a year is spent on fast/ processed foods in the UK (estimates from Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs). Should this be taxed at 10% it would result in potentially £5.1 billion in taxes or a reduction in the amount unhealthy foods being consumed. Not only are these foods high in sugar and salt (a typical McDonalds meal can contain 54g+ of sugar and 3.7g+ of salt), they are generally devoid of any nutrition. The combination of sugar. salt with little nutrition is a major cause of obesity.
Examples of the types of food in this category include (but are not limited to):
– Chocolates and sweets
– Crisps and similar snacks
– Take-a-way food, and food from fast food chains
– Certain ready meals (high sugar/ low micro-nutrient density)
Healthy alternative sold at fast foods establishments could avoid these taxes.
Regulation on sweeteners which may substitute sugar, but may also cause the same addictive/ insulin response as sugar does.
Sweeteners work by mimicking the shape of sugar in taste receptors, but are unable to be metabolized into energy, which means they are often marketed as being a healthy alternative. However, some artificial sweeteners can cause a similar insulin responses to sugar, and can cause sugar cravings. Strict regulation of these sweeteners should be considered to avoid companies using sweeteners to avoid sugar regulations.
Use of additional funds tax to further support health
The primary purpose of the additional tax on sugar/ fast foods is to deter people from eating them regularly. However, people will undoubtedly still by these foods to a lesser extent, for example as a treat. If these foods have additional tax it is likely to bring in a few billion dollars which can be used to further promote the health of the country through various avenues. These can include additional NHS funding, supplement the price of unprocessed foods or subsidize gym memberships/ sports equipment.
Click hereto sign the e-petition, lets make a change!