Choosing a Better Diet: A food and health action plan – Health Ebook


NUTRITION AND HEALTH IN ENGLAND Good nutrition is vital to good health. While 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 less than the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables and fibre but 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 Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
2 It is estimated that eating at least 5 varied portions of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce the risk of deaths from chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer by up to 20%.
3 Research has shown that each increase of one portion of fruit or vegetables a day lower the risk of coronary heart disease by 4% and the risk of stroke by 6%.
4 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. 22% of men and 23% of women in England are now obese – a threefold increase since the 1980s – while 65% of men and 56% of women – 24 million adults – are either overweight or obese.5 Obesity is a growing problem among children and young people too. Around 16% of
2 to 15 year olds are obese.6 Obesity brings ill health, including hypertension, heart disease and type II diabetes. Obesity is responsible for an estimated 9,000 premature deaths per year in England (6% of all deaths, compared to 10% for smoking).
7 It is estimated that the treatment of ill health from poor diet costs the National Health Service at least £4 billion each year.
8 There are many inequalities in nutrition and health that need to be addressed. For example, consumption of fruit and vegetables varies markedly between socio-economic groups. 27% of men and 33% of women in the managerial and professional groups consume the recommended five portions per day compared to 16% of men and 17% of women in routine and semi-routine occupations. 9 Mothers from disadvantaged groups are least likely to breastfeed. 10 Obesity is more prevalent among thelowest socioeconomic groups, and this differenceis more marked for women. 29% of women

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