PREVENTING OBESITY: GOOD NUTRITION AND SOCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Is good nutrition enough to prevent obesity?
A healthy nutritious diet is crucial for health and weight maintenance. The benefits of a balanced dietary intake, even in the absence of weight loss, can be profound. The harmful effects of excessive intake of saturated fats are becoming clearer. Normally associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, recent studies have also shown an association with the development of carcinoma. One study showed that adult women with a daily fat consumption of 90 g had twice the risk of developing breast cancer as women eating only 40 g saturated fat daily.
The antioxidant qualities of fruit and vegetables, and their low-calorie, high-fibre content, have clear advantages. Highly impressive improvements in markers of type 2 diabetes can be gained from modest weight loss but rapid improvements in overall glycaemic levels can initially be achieved by the introduction of a healthy balanced diet.
Do social circumstances influence dietary intake?
Many studies have shown clear associations between obesity, poor diet and social deprivation. Children and adults in the lower social economic classes are particularly likely to have a poor-quality diet. Mothers are less likely to breast feed and less likely to provide low-fat, low-sugar, high-fibre foods for their children.
With the decline in the number of local shops, the majority of households buy their food provisions at out-of-town supermarkets. It is very difficult for a family without a car, living some distance from the nearest supermarket, to make healthy food choices. If there is a local shop, it is highly likely that it will not offer much choice of fresh produce, and what it might provide is likely to be of poor quality and high in price. Studies have demonstrated that 20% of teenagers ate no fruit at all. Another study, looking at adult women, showed that only 1 in 5 were eating five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and that these women were much more likely to be in the high social economic groups.
The average British household spends about 3000 pounds a year on food provision and whereas the richer families spend only 11% of their earnings on food, the poorest families spend up to 30% of their income to feed themselves. This 'nutrition gap' appears to be growing wider.