Mixed messages mean confusion

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Consumers are bombarded with conflicting health advice
Consumers are bombarded with conflicting health advice
Consumers are confused by the complexity of the healthy eating advice they are bombarded with and need greater help to navigate the maze of apparently conflicting information, a leading nutritionist has advised.

According to Professor Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, people need clearer advice on eating healthily, while reducing their food waste in the home as incomes lag behind rising prices.

Over the coming year Buttriss expects the Department of Health to maintain an emphasis on salt reduction as part of the voluntary Public Health Responsibility Deal. Last month the Change4Life consumer advice scheme began to focus on cutting saturated fat. And, later this year, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is scheduled to publish a report on carbohydrate consumption.

Mixed messages

“The communication of multiple messages can be challenging at the best of times,​” warned Buttriss. “Current advice is that starchy foods are good (though popular media often disputes this) but another form of carbs sugars is like sat fat, in excess in the national diet​ [both are above the 11% of energy intake target],” she said.

“Although total fat intakes are about on target now – 35% of energy – and starchy carb intake is generally not an issue, manipulating sats and sugars simultaneously can be tricky because of the complexity of the make-up of foods, and the fat/sugar see-saw relationship that is widely evident in dietary surveys (not surprisingly as fat and carbs comprise the majority of energy intake).

“On top of this, intake of fibre – another carbohydrate – is low.”

Buttriss added: “It will be interesting to see how the potentially conflicting dietary messaging is handled … I suspect we can expect some confusing headlines!”


She also pointed to other concerns regarding the low vitamin D status in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, together with low micronutrient intakes in a proportion of young people.

“For all population sub groups, if physical activity levels were higher, more food could be consumed without resulting in weight gain and, for some, this might help in the delivery of micronutrients,” ​she said. “Obviously this depends on the dietary choices made, but for teenage girls for example, a glass of low-fat milk or a yogurt daily would make a valuable contribution to intake of a number of the nutrients consumed at potentially inadequate levels (including iodine, which has been highlighted recently).”

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