INFORMATION RESOURCES ON FOOD AND HEALTH
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Good nutrition is vital to good health. Whilst many people in England eat well, a large number do not, particularly among the more disadvantaged and vulnerable in society. In particular, a significant proportion of the population consumes more than the recommended amount of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. Such poor nutrition is a major cause of ill health and premature death in England. Cancer and cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, are the major causes of death in England, accounting together for almost 60% of premature deaths. About one third of cancers can be attributed to poor diet and nutrition.1 The Department of Health has estimated that if diets matched nutritional guidelines, around 70 000 deaths in the UK could be prevented each year and that the health benefits (in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs)) would be as high as £20 billion each year2.
Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.3 It is estimated that eating at least 5 varied portions of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce the risk of deaths from chronic disease, stroke, and cancer by up to 20%.4 Research has shown that each increase of one portion of fruit or vegetables a day lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by 4% and the risk of stroke by 6%.5 Evidence also suggests that an increase in fruit and vegetable intake can help lower blood pressure.
Unhealthy diets, along with physical inactivity, have contributed to the growth of obesity in England. The proportion of men classed as obese increased from 13.2% in 1993 to 23.7% in 2006 and from 16.4% to 24.2% for women during the same period. Obesity is a growing problem among children and young people too. Around 16% of 2 to 15 year olds are obese.6 Worldwide, approximately 58% of type-two diabetes, 21% of heart disease and between 8-42% of certain cancers is linked to an excess of body fat7. Relative risk of death is also increased in those whose BMI is above the normal range8.
- Department of Health (1998) Nutritional Aspects of the Development of Cancer. Report on Health and Social subjects No 48, TSO, London.
- Cabinet Office – The Strategy Unit (2008). Food Matters. Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century. Ch. 2 – Trends and Challenges.
- WHO (2003) Diet Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
- Department of Health (2000) The NHS Plan
- Joshipura, K J et al (2001) The Effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease, Annals of Internal Medicine, 134: 1106-14.
- Department of Health (2006), Health Survey for England
- Department of Health (2003). Obesity: Defusing the Health Time Bomb. In Health Check: CMO Annual Report 2002. London
- EMPHO (2004). Profile of Obesity in the East Midlands.
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PAGE CREATED: 1 April 2007 | PAGE REVISED: 7 July 2009