Blueberry muffins have more sugar than a can of coke

Obesity Health Alliance  |  2018  |  Warning over blueberry muffin hidden sugar content – with leading brands containing up to 10 teaspoons of sugar; more than a can of Coke

Action on Sugar and the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) have released figures highlighting the amount of sugar in blueberry muffins. Their data not only shows the ‘hidden sugar’ in the treat, but it also underlines the variation in sugar content in the muffins sold across retail outlets in the UK.  Some of these muffins contain as much as 10 teaspoons (tsps) of sugar and those with the least sugar contained 3 tsps.


Their analysis shows that  muffins purchased at railways station shops had more sugar (19%) and were over a third  (32%) than those available pre-packaged in supermarkets.  While,  just under two thirds 61% of all the muffins included in the survey  contained six teaspoons of sugar or more, which is the upper daily limit  for a child aged 7-10 years.

Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance Lead, said:

“We may think grabbing a blueberry muffin is a reasonably healthy option for a snack on the go compared to other cakes or a chocolate bar – yet the figures suggest otherwise.  There is huge variation in both the size of muffins and the sugar content; and with limited nutrition labelling it’s all too easy to eat a huge amount of sugar in just one serving.”

Action on Obesity are calling on the government to introduce warning labels to be mandatory on all food products, not just those sold ready packaged in supermarkets.

The full release is available at Obesity  Health Alliance, Warning over blueberry muffin hidden sugar content – with leading brands containing up to 10 teaspoons of sugar; more than a can of Coke
In the media BBC News A blueberry muffin ‘could have day’s worth of sugar’

The correlation between child and adolescent obesity and poverty widened in twenty-first century, according to UCL research

Bann, David et al. | Socioeconomic inequalities in childhood and adolescent body-mass index, weight, and height from 1953 to 2015: an analysis of four longitudinal, observational, British birth cohort studies  | The Lancet Public Health | Vol. 0 |  0 | ePub | Doi:

Researchers from University College London examined socioeconomic inequalities in childhood body- mass index (BMI).  Previous research findings revealed an association between rich countries and childhood-adolescent weight status, this study sought to address uncertainty surrounding how these markers (height, weight and BMI) have changed over time in Britain.

The longitudinal study looked at data from four longitudinal, observational, British birth cohort studies from 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2001. They categorised those in the 1946, 1958 and 1970 studies as the earlier-born cohorts and those from the 2001 cohort study as the later- born cohort.  They found that although inequalities traditionally associated with  height and weight narrowed or reversed, whereas differences in BMI between the poorest and wealthiest children expanded.

While there was little inequality in childhood BMI in the earlier-born cohorts, inequalities were present in the 2001 cohort and widened from childhood to adolescence in the 1958–2001 cohort. Their research has identified an association between obesity and poverty. According to the researchers, “these substantial changes highlight the impact of societal changes on child and adolescent growth and the insufficiency of previous policies in preventing obesity and its socioeconomic inequality. As such, new and effective policies are required to reduce BMI inequalities in childhood and adolescence.”

The full article is available from The Lancet Public Health 

As The Lancet Public Health is an open access journal the full article can be downloaded here 

Related: The Lancet’s comment Trends in childhood height and weight, and socioeconomic inequalities can be read here 

In the media:

The Telegraph  Poor children in Britain now fatter than wealthy in dramatic reversal

Express  Child obesity: How children lost the war on weight




Evaluating weight management interventions

Evidence-based guidance to support the evaluation of weight management interventions | Public Health England


This document is an update of the ‘Standard Evaluation Framework (SEF) for weight management interventions’, (2009) which was originally published by the National Obesity Observatory, and is now widely used across England.

It has been updated as a result of feedback from practitioners in the field following a consultation exercise, and to provide support for the Weight management: guidance for commissioners and providers collection.

The document contains a list of ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ criteria for data required for a comprehensive and robust evaluation. Essential criteria are the minimum data and information recommended to perform a basic evaluation of a weight management intervention. Desirable criteria are additional data that would improve the quality of an evaluation; and enhance understanding about what has been achieved and the processes that have taken place during the intervention.

Full document: Standard evaluation framework for weight management interventions

Calorie reduction programme

Steps to cut people’s excessive calorie intake have been unveiled by Public Health England (PHE), as part of the government’s strategy to cut childhood and adult obesity.


This report sets out the evidence on children’s calorie consumption and the details of the calorie reduction programme.

In terms of the evidence the report includes details of:

  • recommendations around calorie intakes, sources of calories and reported levels of intake
  • calculated estimates for daily energy intakes and excess calories consumed by children and adults
  • evidence on reformulation and portion size reduction; and public perceptions and attitudes to calories
  • estimated health economic benefits of a calorie reduction programme

For the calorie reduction programme, the reports sets out:

  • the overall ambition and structure of the programme
  • the food categories included
  • suggested mechanisms for action
  • timeline and next steps for PHE

Full report: Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action

Additional link: PHE news story

7 in 10 millennials will be obese in middle age by 2028 predicts Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research (CRUK) warns of the obesity risk for millennials using data  on current obesity trends to predict the incidence of obesity looking at the nation’s weight in ten years’ time. The data CRUK extrapolated indicates that seventy per cent of millennials those born between 1980s and the middle of the 1990s are likely to be obese by middle age. 

Video from Cancer Research:

This is in comparison to approximately half of those born between 1945 and 1955, “the baby boomers” who were overweight or obese in their thirties and forties. CRUK has launched a campaign to increase awareness across the UK that obesity  is a cause of cancer.  CRUK’s director of prevention, Alison Cox said:

“being overweight is the UK’s biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, but most people don’t know about this substantial risk. If more people become aware of the link it may spare not just millennials,  but all generations from cancer.”

Although being overweight or obese as an adult is linked to 13 different types of cancer including breast, bowel and kidney cancer, only 15% of people in the UK are aware of the link.  To raise awareness CRUK  handed out fake cigarette packets to shoppers in Aylesbury,Buckinghamshire posing the question: What is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer? To their surprise when shoppers opened the packets they discovered they were filled with chips, and the answer to the question was obesity.

In the media:

The Independent: Millennials will be most overweight generation since records began, cancer experts warn

BBC News: Millennials ‘will be the fattest generation on record’

Obesity and diabetes both linked to caner

Diabetes and high BMI are leading causes of death and ill health globally and are on the increase in most countries. In 2014 9% of men and 8% of women worldwide had diabetes; 38.5% of men and 39.2% of women had high Body Mass Index (BMI), a figure equivalent to approximately 2 billion adults. 

A high BMI was responsible for almost twice as many cancers as diabetes. Over 5% of cancers worldwide were attributable to diabetes or high BMI in 2012, it is estimated that this proportion may increase by 25% by 2035 as a result of the global increase in obesity. 


For countries such as the UK, an estimated 15% to 16% of cancers could be avoided by preventing diabetes, obesity or excess weight (defined as a BMI  greater than 25). A high BMI was responsible for almost twice as many cancers as diabetes.

Although the links between high BMI, diabetes and cancer have been known for some time, this study presents the first calculations of attributable risk for 175 countries. This represents the proportion of cancers that could be prevented if the risk factors were eliminated.  (The National Institute of Health Research NIHR)

The abstract is taken from NIHR

Diabetes and high body-mass index (BMI) are associated with increased risk of several cancers, and are increasing in prevalence in most countries. We estimated the cancer incidence attributable to diabetes and high BMI as individual risk factors and in combination, by country and sex.

Methods We estimated population attributable fractions for 12 cancers by age and sex for 175 countries in 2012. We defined high BMI as a BMI greater than or equal to 25 kg/m2. We used comprehensive prevalence estimates of diabetes and BMI categories in 2002, assuming a 10-year lag between exposure to diabetes or high BMI and incidence of cancer, combined with relative risks from published estimates, to quantify contribution of diabetes and high BMI to site-specific cancers, individually and combined as independent risk factors and in a conservative scenario in which we assumed full overlap of risk of diabetes and high BMI. We then used GLOBOCAN cancer incidence data to estimate the number of cancer cases attributable to the two risk factors. We also estimated the number of cancer cases in 2012 that were attributable to increases in the prevalence of diabetes and high BMI from 1980 to 2002. All analyses were done at individual country level and grouped by region for reporting.

Findings We estimated that 5·6% of all incident cancers in 2012 were attributable to the combined effects of diabetes and high BMI as independent risk factors, corresponding to 792 600 new cases. 187 600 (24·5%) of 766 000 cases of liver cancer and 121 700 (38·4%) of 317 000 cases of endometrial cancer were attributable to these risk factors. In the conservative scenario, about 4·5% (626 900 new cases) of all incident cancers assessed were attributable to diabetes and high BMI combined. Individually, high BMI (544 300 cases) was responsible for twice as many cancer cases as diabetes (280 100 cases). 26·1% of diabetes-related cancers (equating to 77 000 new cases) and 31·9% of high BMI-related cancers (174 040 new cases) were attributable to increases in the prevalence of these risk factors from 1980 to 2002.

Interpretation A substantial number of cancer cases are attributable to diabetes and high BMI. As the prevalence of these cancer risk factors increases, clinical and public health efforts should focus on identifying optimal preventive and screening measures for whole populations and individual patients.

Full reference:  Pearson-Stuttard, J. et al |Worldwide burden of cancer attributable to diabetes and high body mass index: a comparative risk assessment|The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology|2017

The article can downloaded from The Lancet here 

Calorie counters underestimate their calorie consumption 

Self-reported data on food consumption behaviours are widely recognised as containing inherent biases.   The Evaluating Calorie Intake for Population Statistical Estimates (ECLIPSE) project was carried out by the Data Science Campus at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Its goal was to better understand the apparent under-estimation of average calorie intake reported in national surveys. 

diet-695723_1920While an additional aim of this project was to quantify the level of accuracy in estimates from self-reported data and explore methods for adjusting and improving the accuracy of population level statistics. An analysis of data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) was accessed from the UK Data Service. Data from survey years one to six were used (collected between 2008 and 2014).
While the recommended daily calorie intake is 2500 for men and 2000 for women, the results demonstrate that males were consuming more than 3000 calories each day; females also reported eating about 1500 while actually ingesting 2500.  A third of the UK adults in the study underestimated their calorie intake.

The findings presented in this report are the results of experimental research. The statistics presented relating to mean calorie intake estimates should not be interpreted as official estimates. Further testing and validation would be necessary before implementing into production of official statistics.

The full project details are available from the ONS Data Science Campus here

In the media:

The Guardian: So the UK’s eating more than it realises-here’s how we could get thin

The Daily Mail: Hidden calories are fuelling the obesity crisis: Britons eat 50% more than they realise warn experts