During Food Manufacture Group’s webinar Obesity and health: the big fat, sugar and salt debate, Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine said: “We are faced by a global pandemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes and this is entirely due to ultra-processed fast foods that are very high in sugar, fat and salt and sweetened soft drinks.
“None of these give any feeling of fullness or satiation. Just to illustrate that, one Big Mac, a large chips and a big Coca-Cola is equivalent in calories to 14 oranges or 10 bananas. Now you try eating 10 bananas, but you could easily have a Big Mac and so on and then feel hungry two hours later.”
Many foods high in calories, such as those containing an unhealthy level of sugar and salt posed the same problem, he argued. That meant consumers were over-eating products that gave them far more than their recommended daily energy intake, contributing significantly to obesity, he said.
However, he acknowledged that not everyone was affected in the same way by eating such foods. “What’s surprising perhaps is that not all of us are obese. Why are some people able to resist this type of stuff?”
MacGregor said Action on Sugar, the group he was spearheading alongside Consensus Action on Salt & Health, was pressing secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt to cut sugar content in sugary foods by 40%.
Tax on sugar
It was calling for a 15% reduction in fat in fatty foods, a ban on all advertising and sports sponsorship of unhealthy foods and a reduction in portions and availability of such foods. Further aims included slapping a tax on sugar and moving responsibility for nutrition policy back to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), after it lost it in 2010.
He claimed only an independent body such as the FSA could properly hold industry to account, rather than requiring it to police itself under the government’s current “ridiculous” Responsibility Deal for Health. Scientifically-driven independent targets for sugar content in foods that provided a “level playing field” for the food industry were also needed, he said.