“I want to just make a plea on behalf of those working in academia to enable us to continue doing the translational work that we do and not to be pilloried at times and criticised because of our work with the industry,” claimed Christine Williams, professor of human nutrition at the University of Reading and chairman of the British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF’s) Board of Trustees.
“It is as important as the policy development work and it should be respected as such. But many young people coming into research today are actually put off.
“They are deterred from getting into these issues because they are afraid of accusations of lack of independence.”
Growing levels of obesity
Finding answers to the huge problem of growing levels of obesity across the nation, needed to be “multi-sectorial” and required the best minds in nutrition – both in the public sector and industry – working collaboratively together, Williams suggested.
Countering misinformation about nutrition and health that is widely spread by the popular press with credible evidence-based nutrition science was a huge challenge, she remarked.
There was also a pressing need to make nutrition science accessible to all people, she told attendees at the BNF’s Annual Day in London last month.
Both objectives are at the heart of what the BNF – a charity that this year celebrated its 50th anniversary – was set up to do, Williams explained.
Family Food Survey
Tackling obesity would not be easy, she remarked. Food intake data from the Family Food Survey showed that while food supply, dietary and lifestyle patterns had changed radically since 1967, the population was eating far fewer calories today than in the past – and yet, obesity levels continued to rise.
“In 1967, the incidence of obesity was about 2% in the population. It’s now 26%,” reported Williams.
“So, in total our calorie intake has decreased by 20–30% over the same time as we have put on 344,000t of adipose tissue. It’s an extraordinary dilemma.”
While lower levels of physical activity and unreported consumption of food out of home might explain some of the findings, they were not enough on their own, she added.
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