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UK population advised to adopt English diet

Thousands of deaths could be prevented every year if people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland adopted the English national diet, it is claimed.

Research published in BMJ Open shows people in England "consistently" eat more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat and salt than other UK countries on a daily basis.

The study claims as a result death rates for heart disease and cancers associated with poor diet were higher in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than in England.

During 2007 - 2009, there were nearly 22,000 excess deaths from such conditions - Scotland, 15,719, Wales, 3,723 and Northern Ireland 2,329.

Of this, the study claims more than 11,000 deaths could have been prevented or delayed in the three UK countries if they were to more closely mirror the average diet in England.

One of the study's researchers has implored authorities to find the courage to get tougher on policies to encourage healthier diets.

Dr Peter Scarborough, a member of the British Heart Foundation Promotion Research Group at the Department of Public Health, University of Oxford told NiP it is "understandable" why the government is afraid to go up against the food industry as it has "too much clout" in dictating policy.

He criticised the government's Responsibility Deal for giving the food industry "too much power to influence" and wholly rejects the notion that governmental policy on obesity is the reason for the stark variations in diet across the UK.

"The reason why the Scottish diet is worse than England's is not because they actively choose not to adopt a healthier diet or don't care, it is because the country is less affluent than England," he said.

"You would see the same differences if you compared the North East and South East of England."

He and his fellow researchers are calling for the banning of junk food advertisements to be shown before the watershed and the introduction of 'fat taxes' paired with subsidies for fruit and vegetables.

"It seemed that the government was taking a positive step forward in not ruling out following Denmark in implementing 'fat taxes', but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's white paper on obesity goes back on that," said Dr Scarborough.

"Simply barking information at people to eat and drink less, as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's white paper on obesity does, will not work."

In a statement to NiP, a spokesperson from the Scottish Government said it is "continuing to build on the 12% decrease in cancer mortality rates in 10 years."

It said the government plans to spend over £7.5m in the next three years on projects to encourage healthy eating, working closely with the food industry to reduce the sugar, fat and salt content of food products.

BMJ Open

Should the UK population be encourage to adopt the English national diet?
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“Yes, if it is as claims that the diet is not salty and full of fat as the full English breakfast. What really is the English diet? The tropic/Caribbean diet is naturally healthy. It is full of fibre, freshly prepared food, fresh fruits and vegetables. There are no added preservatives etc. There says may have a bit of extra salt, which is vital for the hot temperature.” - Hilda Singh, Enfield, Middlesex