Public health officials in the United Kingdom are urging food makers to cut the calories in their products by 20% by 2024. Major food companies that fail to make progress will be named and shamed, according to a report from The Guardian.
Public Health England said the changes would cut NHS costs by £4.5bn over the next 25 years and help prevent more than 35,000 premature deaths. An additional £4.48bn would be saved in social care costs.
Public Health England’s chief nutritionist Dr. Alison Tedstone says England has more obese children “than ever before.”
“We have one in five children arriving in primary school already obese or overweight and one in three leaving primary school obese or overweight,” she said. Dr. Tedstone also says that more than 60% of adults are overweight.
The cost of obesity to the NHS is substantial, she says. The NHS spends more than £6.6bn on obesity-related illnesses each year.
Public Health England is launching a campaign that encourages people to keep their calorie intake under control. The department is suggesting eating 400 calories for breakfast and 600 calories each for lunch and dinner.
Major fast-food chains, including Subway, McDonald’s and Greggs, have signed up to the plan and have agreed to inform customers of their lower-calorie options.
The department estimates that some children are eating up to 500 extra calories per day, which is the equivalent of an additional meal. Ready-made meals and processed foods account for 50% of calories consumed, and 19% of those are eaten by children.
Processed foods are often high in salt, sugar and carbohydrates, which contribute to fat storage and weight gain.
“Although people have been advised for years to reduce or limit fat intake to reduce overall body fat, more modern science shows that carbohydrates are the common culprits responsible for issues with excess body fat,” says Well Massive.
Ketogenic diets, which are low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein, have been shown to slow aging and promote weight loss.
Public Health England has asked producers to cut calories in more than 13 processed food categories, including savory snacks, pizzas, potatoes, meats, pasta meals and “composite” salads, like hummus.
Last year, the department launched a similar campaign against sugar by putting a levy on sugary drinks. The department has also taken action against salt in food products, although few foods were on track to meet targets.
Type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer which are related to obesity cost the NHS £6bn each year.
While these efforts are a great start, Professor Francesco Rubino at King’s College London says calories are not solely responsible for the obesity epidemic. He says other chemicals in processed foods may also contribute to weight gain, but calorie restriction may help prevent obesity.
Rubino also questions how food manufacturers will reduce the calories in their foods and which substances will be used to reduce calories without altering taste.
“If you ask the food industry to change their products to reduce calories, you don’t know exactly how they will accomplish that,” he said.