Britain’s poor diet more deadly than its smoking habit as alcohol related deaths soar
Source: The Telegraph
By Laura Donnelly
15 Sep 2015
Britain’s junk food diet has become the leading cause of death and ill-health, ahead of smoking, according to a study published in The Lancet.
The research shows that 40 per cent of NHS resources are spent dealing with ills caused by potentially preventable lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating habits, obesity, alcohol and smoking.
Diet is now the number one factor driving poor health, even ahead of smoking, the study by Public Health England (PHE) found – causing 10.8 per cent of illness in the UK compared with 10.7 per cent caused by smoking.
The number of deaths from alcohol-related disease has soared. The figures for England, which track the impact of disease since 1990, show a 57 per cent rise in liver cancer deaths and a 42 per cent increase in deaths from cirrhosis.
Overall, researchers found that life expectancy rose by 6.4 years between 1990 and 2013, increasing from 75.9 to 81.3 years. But, over the same period, the burden of disability – the total amount of time spent living in ill-health – barely changed, as chronic diseases have taken grip. While death rates from diabetes fell by 56 per cent, the number of years lost to disability and illness linked to the condition rose by 75 per cent over the same period, the analysis shows.
Later this year the Government is due to publish a new strategy to tackle obesity.
Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, has said the health service could be bankrupted by the strain of weight-related disease if current trends are not reversed. One in five children is obese by the time they leave primary school, and two in three adults are overweight or obese.
In June, Mr Stevens said parents and society were doing something “terribly wrong” in how the next generation was being brought up, which would fuel a tide of diseases. He called for a change in the nation’s habits to turn around current trends.
“Cutting down on junk food diets, couch potato lifestyles, cigarettes and booze could make Britain one of the healthiest places to live in the world, while saving taxpayers billions on future NHS costs,” Mr Stevens said.
Public health officials are also drawing up recommendations for ways to help reduce the amount of sugar consumed in Britain. The proposals could include limits on the standard portion sizes of chocolates, sweets and fizzy drinks which are sold.
Prof Kevin Fenton, the PHE director of Health and Wellbeing, said: “As a nation we are eating far too many fats and far too much sugar.
“Our salt intake, although it has been decreasing over time, is still at a level where we would like to see further decreases because that is going to have a huge impact on cardiovascular disease, blood pressure and stroke outcomes.
“We do recognise that this is not going to be down to families alone. We have much greater gains that can be made in working with the industry.”
Most people needed to reduce their calorie intake, he said, given that 62 per cent of adults are overweight or obese.
Prof John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “We urgently need government to make people’s social environments healthier. Only government has the power to introduce measures like minimum unit pricing for alcohol, increased duties on tobacco, sugary drinks taxes and subsidies on fruit and veg.”