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The British food environment actively hinders people’s efforts to lose weight and keep it off
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The British food environment actively hinders people’s efforts to lose weight and keep it off

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A systematic review of British food environment found that it actively hinders people’s efforts at losing weight and keeping it off. It suggests that even well-designed weight-management services will have limited impact long-term on weight loss and maintenance if the government does not implement effective policy to address this food environment.

The UK has one the worst records in Western Europe for obesity, with 2/3 of adults being overweight or obese and 1/3 of children reaching this stage by the end of primary school. The NHS spends 6bn annually on obesity-related diseases.

The ‘food environment’ refers to places where people can buy and consume food outside of their home. According to the review, unhealthy foods are so common that people who want to lose weight or maintain their health must avoid certain areas of the food environment (e.g., the canteen at work or the friend’s party).

Additionally, the review revealed that low-income people have more difficulty managing their weight due to the higher availability of unhealthy food options.

26 studies were included in the systematic review that examined people’s experiences with losing weight or maintaining their weight loss in their everyday environment. These studies were published between 2011-2020 from 12 high-income countries. This includes accounts of 679 adults. This important research area is lacking in evidence due to the small number of studies that have been included.

  • You can balance the balance by offering more promotions and deals on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fewer offers and promotions on ‘High In Fat, Salt, and/or Sugar’ (HFSS), foods.
  • Businesses and the public sector can work together to offer healthier options at work for lunchtimes as well as social occasions.
  • Make it easier to label foods with nutritional information and portion sizes.
  • Restrict marketing of HFSS food & drink
  • Encourage the opening of more fast-food outlets that offer healthy options, especially near popular work locations.
  • Provide financial support for those on the lower socioeconomic end to ensure that healthy food access is more equitable.
  • Weight management services that ensure people are healthy recognize the importance of their food environment and incorporate strategies for food shopping and social occasions into all programs.

The review was conducted by the National Institute for Health Research’s Obesity Policy Research Unit, which conducts independent research to inform government policies.

Kimberley Neve, coauthor of the review, and Research Assistant at Obesity Policy Unit, Centre for Food Policy City, University of London, stated that “this review not only highlights how difficult it is in Britain to lose weight and keep it off but also that even those who are really determined are often thwarted by unhealthy food options that are all around them–they’re cheap to buy, easy to find, quick to prepare, and appealing.”

“With Christmas treats everywhere and New Year resolutions just around the corner, it is time for the narrative to shift so that people don’t have to eat the same January diet but instead ask for healthy food environments. You need policy to create an environment that encourages industry to change.

The journal publishes the research.Obesity Reviews.

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More information:
Kimberley L.Neve How does the environment affect people involved in weight management. A systematic review and thematic synthèse of qualitative literature. Obesity Reviews (2021). DOI: 10.1111/obr.13398

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City University London

The British food environment actively hinders people’s efforts to lose weight and keep it off (January 22, 223)
Retrieved 3 January 2022

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