The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has claimed that 40 000 lives could be saved each year if the amount of saturated fat and salt in food was cut and if toxic artificial fats called trans fats were eliminated. Trans fats are added to food in order to prolong shelf life, but they are linked to heart disease.
The NHS advisory body suggested that ministers should consider introducing legislation if manufacturers fail to take action. They recommend several courses of action, including:
- Selling low salt and low fat foods more cheaply than their unhealthy counterparts, through the use of subsidies if necessary.
- Banning advertising of unhealthy foods to children until after 9pm and using planning laws to restrict fast food outlets near schools.
- Paying farmers to produce healthier foods.
- Encouraging walking and cycling by local authorities.
- Introducing a traffic light food labelling system, despite opposition from the European Parliament.
- Disclosing lobbying of government and its agencies by the food and drink industry.
Professor Klim McPherson of NICE said ‘…we want the healthy choice to be the easy choice [and] we want the healthy choice to be the less expensive, more attractive choice. Put simply, this guidance can help the Government and the food industry to take action to prevent huge numbers of unnecessary deaths and illnesses caused by heart disease and stroke.’
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians responded to the NICE guidance saying ‘Banning trans-fats, reducing salt consumption and saturated fat levels in processed food may initially pose operational challenges for manufacturers, but the profits of private firms ought not to take precedence when compared with the health of the more than four million people at risk in this country.’
It is important to see this advice in context; an active lifestyle and a diet that is rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is the way to good health. Although trans fats are deterimental to health and should be avoided, many low fat processed foods are loaded with sugar so food choices should be carefully considered. In addition, some salt is necessary for health, particularly for people with adrenal fatigue. Each individual is unique and the best way to establish personal needs may be to make an appointment with Emma at Smart Nutrition.