Last week the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges releases a report in to what it calls “one of the biggest threats to public health in the 21st century” – obesity. It’s an issue described by the Academy as a ‘medical emergency’ – prompting them to call for “a campaign” to urgently tackle this crisis.
The publishing of the report means that once again we’re subjected to the ridiculous – yet seemingly obligatory – hyperbole surrounding the food & health debate. The message has flipped between ‘disaster is imminent’ and ‘sitting on an obesity time bomb’. The “slogan-ised” approach has dominated the obesity debate ever since a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2000 stated that ‘overweight populations were causing a global epidemic’.
It’s important for us to make clear that we don’t disagree with the principle behind what the Academy is calling. We certainly don’t want to see an increase in obesity level – we simply disagree with the list recommendations made.
Top of that list is the media’s current favourite “obesity cure” – fat tax. AoMRC are proposing a 20% tax on fizzy drinks, ban TV ads for foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat before 9pm, reduce the number of fast-food outlets and have GPs pester patients about their weight. All laudable yet, we believe, misguided suggestions.
While this report from the AoMRC doesn’t specifically mention salt as part of the obesity crisis there are some who do. They blame salt for making us consume more sugary soft drinks – which in turn does contribute to the obesity. But this is clearly as absurd as blaming hot-weather for the obesity crisis – that makes people drink more sugary soft drinks and, to compound matters, it makes them less inclined to exercise too!
We’re also seeing an increase in lazy journalists and politicians referring to what’s been dubbed the “unholy trinity” of processed foods “salt, sugar and saturated fat” as though they are one and the same thing. But they are not. Just as guilt by association is not the same as guilt.
But on the strength of this association, advice has been drawn up to illustrate how obesity rates could be cut by cutting our salt intake and, therefore, our soft drink intake. Totally ignoring the common sense solution of advising people cut their soft drink consumption.
While there’s no denying that if you only eat foods perceived as unhealthy, you run the risk of damaging your health. But as we’ve said before – and we’ll continue to say – eating food that contains salt, sugar and fat as part of a healthy diet doesn’t result in premature death. It’s all about consuming a healthy, balanced diet that echoes the ‘everything in moderation’ healthy living mantra and includes some exercise.