WHO: Stronger focus on nutrition within health services could save 3.7 million lives by 2025

World Health Organization | September 2019 | Stronger focus on nutrition within health services could save 3.7 million lives by 2025

Health services must integrate a stronger focus on ensuring optimum nutrition at each stage of a person’s life, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is estimated that the right investment in nutrition could save 3.7 million lives by 2025.

Image source: apps.who.int

“In order to provide quality health services and achieve Universal Health Coverage, nutrition should be positioned as one of the cornerstones of essential health packages,” said Dr Naoko Yamamoto, Assistant Director-General at WHO. “We also need better food environments which allow all people to consume healthy diets.”

Essential health packages in all settings need to contain robust nutrition components but countries will need to decide which interventions best support their national health policies, strategies and plans.

Key interventions include: providing iron and folic acid supplements as part of antenatal care; delaying umbilical cord clamping to ensure babies receive important nutrients they need after birth; promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding; providing advice on diet such as limiting the intake of free sugars in adults and children and limiting salt intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke (Source: WHO).

Read the full news release from WHO 


Cochrane: Simple changes to food environments may reduce overconsumption

Cochrane Library | August 2019 | Simple changes to food environments may reduce overconsumption

A piece of research that explored the impact of convenience and proximity altered individual’s decisions to consume food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products; the researchers behind this study wanted to see if  this altered people’s decision to purchase and consume these food products.


The team used 24 studies from high-income countries, all of the studies included had at two different levels of availability of a product (6 studies) or its proximity (18 studies), and included a measure of selection or consumption of the manipulated product.

See also: Cochrane Simple changes to food environments may reduce overconsumption

Full reference: Hollands,  G.J. | 2019| Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption| Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews|Issue 8| Art. No.: CD012573. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012573.pub2.

Plain language summary

Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption

Unhealthy patterns of consumption of food, alcohol, and tobacco products are important causes of ill health. Changing the availability (the range or amount of options, or both) of these products or their proximity (the distance at which they are positioned) to potential consumers could help people make healthier choices.

What is the aim of this review?

This review investigated whether altering the availability or proximity of food (including non‐alcoholic beverages), alcohol, and tobacco products changed people’s selection (such as purchasing) or consumption of those products. We searched for all available evidence from randomised controlled trials (a type of study in which participants are assigned to one of two or more treatment groups using a random method) to answer this question, and found 24 studies, all of which were conducted in high‐income countries.

What are the main results of the review?

Six studies involved availability interventions, of which four changed the relative proportion of less‐healthy to healthier options, and two changed the absolute number of different options available. In statistical analyses that combined results from multiple studies, it was found that reducing the number of available options for a particular range or category of food(s) reduced selection of those food products (from analysing 154 participants) and possibly reduced consumption of those products (from 150 participants). However, the certainty of the evidence for these effects was low.

Eighteen studies involved proximity interventions. Most (14/18) changed the distance at which a snack food or drink was placed from the participants, whilst four studies changed the order of meal components encountered along a line. One study found that this reduced selection of food (from analysing 41 participants), whilst in a statistical analysis combining results from multiple studies, it was found that placing food farther away reduced consumption of those food products (from analysing 1098 participants). However, the certainty of the evidence for these effects was very low and low, respectively.

Key messages

Mindful of its limitations, the current evidence suggests that changing the number of available food options or changing where foods are positioned could contribute to meaningful changes in behaviour, justifying policy actions to promote such changes to food environments. However, more high‐quality studies in real‐world settings are needed to make this finding more certain.


Cochrane Altering the availability or proximity of food, alcohol, and tobacco products to change their selection and consumption


See also:

Public Health England Health Matters: Addressing the food environment as part of a local whole systems approach to obesity


Supermarkets need to ‘nudge’ customers to make healthier choices, says Royal Society for Public Health

Royal Society for Public Health | July 2019 | New RSPH report: Health on the Shelf

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling on supermarkets to play a bigger part in ‘nudging’ customers to make healthier choices in its new report Health on the Shelf

Image source: rsph.org.uk

The report explores the public’s perception of supermarkets and the marketing strategies retailers use to boost sales. It also showcases how supermarkets can be health promoting spaces for customers. The reports outlines how:

  • 1 in 3 of us make unhealthy impulse purchases if they are on special offer at the supermarket
  • Almost 90% of products positioned on shelves at children’s eye level were found to be unhealthy
  • By 2050 obesity is predicted to rise by 73% to 26 million
  • 50 % of those polled believe there are more unhealthy
    products on supermarket shelves than healthy products

A panel of experts in public health, nutrition, diet, weight management, consumer insights and retail, were invited to discuss what a healthy supermarket
could look like and how supermarkets could be more effective in nudging people towards healthier behaviour. The panel discussed every element of the
supermarket experience, from layout, understanding the shopper, promotions and price.

In addition Slimming World polled over 2000 members of the public and 2000 Slimming World members to hear their views on how supermarkets are contributing to the obesity
epidemic and how they could do more to help people live healthier lives.

“The environment in which we live is a major contributor towards obesity, and supermarkets have both the power and influence as well as a responsibility in tackling their contribution to this “obesogenic” environment. There has been some progress by supermarkets in areas such as removing junk from check outs, but our research shows that shoppers and industry experts feel there is much more supermarkets can and should do to promote healthier choices.”

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH

In its report the RSPH makes a number of recommendations for retailers and the government (Source: RSPH).

Press release from RSPH 

Health on the Shelf

Fried food consumption and risk of coronary artery disease

Full reference: Honerlaw, J. P. et al. |2019|Fried Food Consumption and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease: The Million Veteran Program| Clinical Nutrition| https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2019.05.008

A sample of more than 150,000 US veterans was used in a study that measured ifconsuming fried foods on a regular basis is linked to a higher risk of coronary artery diesease (CAD). The authors  report that fried food consumption has a positive, dose-dependent association with CAD.



Introduction: Previous studies of the relationship between fried food consumption and coronary artery disease (CAD) have yielded conflicting results. We tested the hypothesis that frequent fried food consumption is associated with a higher risk of incident CAD events in Million Veteran Program (MVP) participants.
Methods: Veterans Health Administration electronic health record data were linked to questionnaires completed at MVP enrollment. Self-reported fried food consumption at baseline was categorized: (less than 1, 1 e3, 4e6 times per week or daily). The outcome of interest was non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) or CAD events. We fitted a Cox regression model adjusting for age, sex, race, education, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.
Results: Of 154,663 MVP enrollees with survey data, mean age was 64 years and 90% were men. During a mean follow-up of approximately 3 years, there were 6725 CAD events. There was a positive linear relationship between frequency of fried food consumption and risk of CAD (p for trend 0.0015).
Conclusions: In a large national cohort of U.S. Veterans, fried food consumption has a positive, dosedependent association with CAD.

The full text of the article is available from the journal Clinical Nutrition

In the news:

MailOnline Fried food DOES increase your risk of coronary artery disease: Scientists discover fries block the blood vessels that supply the heart after years of ‘conflicting’ results

Open consultation: Adding folic acid to flour

Department of Health and Social Care, Welsh Government, The Scottish Government, and Department of Health (Northern Ireland) | June 2019 | Adding folic acid to flour

The Department of Health and Social Care and others are seeking your views on their proposal to make it mandatory for flour millers to add folic acid to flour (a process known as ‘fortification’). They want to know whether flour millers should be required by law to add folic acid to flour.


Mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid should help raise people’s levels of a vitamin called ‘folate’. Raising folate levels in women who could become pregnant would help reduce the number of babies born with birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord, known as ‘neural tube defects’ (Source: The Department of Health and Social Care)

The consultation is open until 9 September 2019, full details here

Ministerial foreword: proposal to add folic acid to flour

Proposal to add folic acid to flour: consultation document

Impact assessment: the fortification of flour with folic acid


BNF Healthy Eating Week

British Nutrition Foundation | June 2019 | BNF Healthy Eating Week

This week 10- 14 June is the British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week, visit their page for lots of resources relevant for the awareness week. 

BNF Healthy Eating Week is a dedicated week in the year to encourage organisations across the UK (including workplaces, universities, and schools) to focus on healthy eating and drinking, and physical activity, and celebrate healthy living.

At the heart of BNF Healthy Eating Week are five health challenges:

  • Have breakfast
  • Have 5 A DAY
  • Drink plenty
  • Get active
  • Sleep well – NEW for 2019

Full details from BNF 

Eating blueberries every day improves heart health

Eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15% according to new research led by the University of East Anglia | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition | story via ScienceDaily


New findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that eating 150g of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 per cent.

Researchers looked at the benefits of eating 150 gram portions (one cup) compared to 75 gram portions. The participants consumed the blueberries in freeze-dried form and a placebo group was given a purple-coloured alternative made of artificial colours and flavourings. They found that eating one cup of blueberries per day resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and arterial stiffness – making enough of a difference to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by between 12 and 15 per cent.

The research team from the University of East Anglia’s Department of Nutrition and Preventive Medicine say that blueberries and other berries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – particularly among at risk groups.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full research article: Curtis, P. J. et al. |Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome—results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial | The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 109, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 1535–1545



The health consequences of eating ultra-processed food

Two studies which looked at the impact of consuming ultra- processed foods on health, report that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods ( more than 4 servings daily) was independently associated with a 62% relatively increased hazard for all cause mortality in the first study; and in the second study an association was identified between higher consumption of ultra-processed foods with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular disease.



The first study from the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra followed almost 20000 graduates of the university every two years to assess their diet through a questionnaire.

The second study- a population-based cohort study- led by the University of Paris recruited over 100000 participants: dietary intakes were collected using repeated 24 hour dietary records (5.7 for each participant on average),  to record participants’ usual consumption of 3300 food items. These foods were categorised using the NOVA classification according to degree of processing.

Both studies are available in the BMJ

The Food Foundation: Children’s Future Food Inquiry report published

The Food Foundation | April 2019 | The Children’s future food inquiry final report is here!

The Food Foundation has published its final food inquiry report, it includes the Children’s #Right2Food Charter, which calls for a new, independent Children’s Food Watchdog to lead the charge on tackling children’s food insecurity in the UK.

The report publishes The Food Foundation’s findings around childhood food insecurity and its impact on children in England. The report findings characterise children’s lives: pre-school settings, school and home, and examine the policies and programmes in place that are intended to support children to eat well. We look at these settings in all four UK nations. We document the evidence on whether these policies are reaching children living in poverty, and we present the views of children and those who work with them on how these policies work in practice.


Image source: foodfoundation.org.uk

One in three (4.1 million) children live in poverty in the UK, with an estimated 2.5 million living in food insecure households.

The Children’s Future Food Inquiry is the first attempt to directly and systematically seek the views of children and young people living in poverty across the UK. It has spent 12 months investigating children’s food insecurity in each of the four UK nations, and the project’s final report pulls together direct input from hundreds of young people, the front line staff, academics and experts (Source: The Food Foundation).

Further information is available from The Food Foundation

New report from Food Active and Sustain: Taking down junk food ads – how local authorities are taking action on outdoor advertising

Food Active | April 2019 | New report from Food Active and Sustain: Taking down junk food ads – how local authorities are taking action on outdoor advertising

Food Active -a healthy weight programme delivered by Health Equalities Group- have published their joint report with Sustain- an alliance for better food and farming- which  illustrates that local authorities have little powers to restrict advertising of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt – despite the fact that many areas are struggling with high levels of childhood overweight and obesity.

Image source: foodactive.org.uk

The report makes a number of recommendations, among them:

  • That Local government be given more powers to impose restrictions to meet local priorities, such as restricting the type of advertising on public telephone boxes which are normally outside their jurisdiction.
  • That Government should tighten restrictions on in-store advertising, including the area immediately surrounding stores.
  • That the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) must have, and use, powers to levy fines on any company that breaks advertising rules more than once in 3 years.
  • That the ASA should consider any area where children congregate to be unsuitable for HFSS advertisements, not just schools, but also to include nurseries, children’s centres, parks, family attractions and leisure centres (Source: Food Active).

Full details are available from Food Active 

Read the report Taking down junk food ads – how local authorities are taking action on outdoor advertising