Thursday, February 08, 2018 by Frances Bloomfield
Eating too many processed foods will make you fat; this in turn makes you more susceptible to a plethora of diseases. We know that to be the case here in the U.S. But this seems to be happening in the U.K. as well. According to a team of researchers from the University of São Paulo, British people have the unhealthiest diet in all of Europe. Because of this, they’re also at the highest risk of obesity, heart, and strokes.
For their study, the researchers examined 19 countries across the continent. They used surveys carried out between 1991 to 2008 to determine the amount of ultra-processed foods that was being consumed by each region. Foods and beverages such as ice cream, carbonated drinks, ready meals, and pastries were included under the study’s definition of ultra-processed foods. Moreover, the researchers also utilized surveys to evaluate the prevalence of obesity.
Out of all the countries, Portugal was found to have the healthiest diet. Only 10.2 percent of the average Portuguese diet was composed of ultra-processed foods. Italy, Greece, and France were just as healthy, with ultra-processed foods making up 13.4 percent, 13.7 percent, and 14.2 percent of their diets, respectively. By contrast, Britons consumed five times more ultra-processed foods than the Portuguese did. These types of foods accounted for 50.4 percent of the British diet. Following close behind were Germany (46.2 percent), Ireland (45.9 percent), and Belgium (40.9 percent).
In addition, the researchers discovered that upping the dietary ratio of ultra-processed foods by one percent increased the chances of obesity by 0.25 percent. The investigative team believed this to be the explanation behind the radically different obesity rates between the U.K. (24.5 percent) and Portugal (15.2 percent).
Lead study author, Carlos Monteiro, has called the British diet a “serious problem.” The growing obesity rate, in particular, he pointed out as being highly concerning. (Related: Great Britain sees spike in heart disease, cancer and stroke as two-thirds of nation is now obese.)
Monteiro’s sentiments are shared by dietitians and by food researchers. Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City, University of London and unaffiliated with the study, said of the results: “The British diet in general is a public health disaster zone. We have a terrible problem with diet-related ill health.”
British Heart Foundation Senior Dietitian, Victoria Taylor, concurred with: “The problem with ultra-processed foods is that they are high in saturated fat, salt and sugars. Too much of these can seriously impact our health, putting us at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. As a nation, we should be making a greater effort to eat less of these types of processed foods, like sweet treats, chocolate and sugary drinks.”
To that end, Monteiro has suggested that the British government step in to curb the consumption of processed foods. One way this could be done is by making these kinds of foods less readily available and more difficult to acquire by adding extra taxes. Another idea was to put health warnings on the labels, just like how many cigarette companies do for their wares.
Until that happens, it’s up to the people to make smarter food choices. These include:
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