Scotland still facing obesity challenge

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Scotland is still facing an obesity crisis
Scotland is still facing an obesity crisis

Related tags: Nutrition, Scotland

Two out of three adults and almost a third of children living in Scotland remain overweight or obese, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has claimed.

FSS has launched two new reports highlighting what it claims is the “huge challenge”​ for people in Scotland to have a healthier diet and reduce their risk of diet-related diseases. 

The first report, The Scottish Diet: It Needs to Change 2018,​ showed the number of those who were overweight or obese had not changed in the past two years. It revealed that nine out of 10 people agreed that obesity was a serious problem in Scotland and 49% of the Scottish population would support banning promotions on unhealthy products.

The report also revealed that 20% of calories and fats eaten, and around half of sugar intake, still came from foods such as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, crisps and sugary drinks.  

Consuming large amounts of calories

It also showed that some people in Scotland were consuming large amounts of calories from alcoholic drinks, with average male and female drinkers consuming 1,100 and 810 calories a week respectively from beer, wine and spirits.

The second report, Monitoring retail purchase and price promotions in Scotland(2010-2016),​ found that there was no real improvement in the amount of calories, fats and sugar purchased in Scotland during that time period. It also showed that while there was a decline in sugar purchased from soft drinks, this was offset by increases in sugar purchased from other foods.

While retail price promotions recently decreased by around 3%, they still continued to be skewed towards less healthy categories. The report said that 36% of overall calories were purchased on price promotion, with up to three-quarters (74%) of confectionery purchased this way.

“These results are disappointing, but unfortunately not unexpected. For diets to change we need to see price promotions rebalanced and shoppers encouraged to buy healthier foods with less sugar, fat and salt, by making these more affordable,”​ said Geoff Ogle, FSS chief executive.

‘Public attitudes are changing’

“There is some good news, though, as public attitudes are changing, with an increase from 50% to 64% of people in Scotland being concerned about our unhealthy diets, and support for taking action to improve our food environment, including calories, to be displayed on menus when eating out of the home. The out-of-home sector has a key role to play and needs to ensure it doesn’t lag behind other sectors.”  

He said that, for a “shift change”, ​individuals, industry and government needed to work together.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “These reports provide yet more evidence that we must take a bold approach to tackling Scotland’s diet and obesity problem, which is why we are developing an ambitious and daring innovative strategy.”

However, David Thomson, CEO of Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland, said its members were taking their role in tackling obesity "very seriously".

“Industry is limiting portion sizes, reformulating products and educating consumers about the food they are eating. There has been a great deal of progress made and our members will continue to play their part,"​ he said.  

“Price promotions give consumers access to a wide range of food at different price points. The regulation of promotions within retail premises is a hugely complicated area and could unfairly disadvantage different types of food and drink companies and their products.

​FSS and Scottish Government would be best placed to test their proposals for effectiveness and the potential impact on businesses before moving to national implementation."

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