Poor diet is the number one risk factor for disease in the UK that could be improved with some lifestyle changes. At this year’s Oxford London Lecture, Professor Susan Jebb of Oxford University, who has over 25 years of experience in nutrition research, spelt out a range of measures that could encourage more people to eat a healthy diet and reduce levels of obesity.
Professor Jebb suggested that the health benefits gained through tobacco control policies and the treatments offered to smokers show what can be achieved with effective treatments for individuals and the public and political will to make wider societal changes. She said a similar approach to overhaul food policy could include the introduction of taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks, new limits on promotions of unhealthy food, and a wider range of NHS treatments available to people who are obese.
At this year’s Oxford London Lecture, 'Knowledge, nudge and nanny: opportunities to improve the nation’s health', Professor Jebb commented that, to date, food policy has tended to rely mainly on educational programmes. It puts the responsibility on the individual for their food choices while doing little to improve a food system that makes less healthy choices the default for many. She argued that for more support for individuals trying to eat more healthily, and changes in places where food is available – in shops, food outlets and the workplace. This would make healthy eating a practical reality and cut the national rates of diet-related disease.