It’s time I gave Public Health England a break… nah…

Public Health England (PHE) gets a lot of stick on this site. PHE is the public sector organisation that exists to

“protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.”

… and that’s a pretty tough gig especially in a nation that seems to have no regard for following advice (whether its good or bad) and, rather than look after its own health, expects the National Health Service to simply cure us after we have made ourselves ill. PHE also exists and provides its advice within the boundaries of what is acceptable to the orthodox wisdom of the medical community. It terms of obesity, this has meant faithfully reproducing the advice and guidance that has created the inexorable rise in obesity in the developed world over the last 40 years.

But, I hear you ask, how can you both criticise the advice as incorrect and in the same argument, say that people don’t follow advice? Well, on the whole I don’t think people do follow advice, but sometimes, maybe on purpose maybe by accident, they do. When they do follow advice, I think that surely the advice giver should look at the outcome and reflect on their advice to see if it was right?

Anyway back to PHE. One thing they are really good at is collecting and publishing data. You can find LOADS of it here

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/phe-data-and-analysis-tools#obesity-diet-and-physical-activity

Just trawling around through the data in a loose moment (as you do), a few things jumped out at me…

  1. In the UK, 7 out of 10 men and 6 out of 10 women are overweight or obese (yikes!)…

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2. We are getting fatter… this is for severe obesity (BMI 40+)

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… but its not just the severely obese, its everyone. This is a population shift… approaching 50% of the population. That’s shocking!

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3. But look at this… we do listen to advice!! Fat consumption is BELOW the recommended levels… thick black line is the PHE recommended intake and we are below! How come we are still getting fatter?

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4. Here’s the kicker… sugar consumption is massively (and I mean massively) ABOVE recommended levels. Again thick black line is the PHE recommended amount.

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So, Public Health England, here’s my analysis of your data…

a) Your advice overall is simply not working (slide 1).
b) As well as not working overall, its ACTUALLY GETTING WORSE (slide 2).
c) People have followed your advice with respect to fat (slide 3), it hasn’t worked and things are still getting worse (slide 1 and 2).
d) People have totally ignored your advice with respect to sugar and are consuming MORE THAN TWICE your recommended maximum (slide 4) and are getting fatter (slide 1 and 2).

Therefore, taking all that together, I propose it shows us that:

  • it’s not eating fat that makes people fat, it’s sugar;
  • reducing fat intake is easier for people to do than reducing sugar: because
  • Big Food has reduced the fat content of prepared food and replaced it with sugar. In the process it has created a whole population of sugar addicts that also just happen to be very good for business.

That’s my analysis anyway. There’s more data on PHE’s website so maybe I’m not completely correct, but guess what, PHE has no analysis whatsoever. Maybe its just to difficult for them…

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January 2018… is it just me?

January has rolled around again and as usual, the newspapers start the year by reporting on things that might form part of people’s New Year’s resolutions, such as undertaking to pay more for train fares (always a January favourite of mine) and the perennial lose weight/take more exercise/ eat “healthier” food. This year the headline writers have been given a helping hand by the “experts” at Public Health England (PHE) who have decided that now is a good time to give advice to parents on restricting their children’s access to “snack foods” that are high in sugar to no more that two a day at no more than 100 Calories a pop.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/02/childrens-snacking-habits-setting-them-up-for-obesity-in-later-life

Now that could be sound advice,  I don’t know if it is, (although it is undoubtedly bound to be ignored) but can I be the only person the the UK weighed down with an overwhelming sense of irony. This is the same PHE that recently produced the Childhood Obesity Strategy. Possibly the most useless document ever produced by a public body and not worth the title of a strategy.

Obese? We’ve got an app for that…

As I said at the time, faced with the choice of actually taking on Big Food and doing something about this mess, PHE bottled it, claiming it was all someone else’s fault but without specifying whose. Fast forward 18 months and now they know who to blame… its the parents of course.  It’s nothing to do with Big Food putting highly addictive food in very attractive packaging and aggressively marketing it to children…. no, no,no… its the bloody parents! Now I don’t know much about parenting not having kids, but I do know about being a kid and I do know about being an obese one at that. What I know is that there was nothing, literally nothing, my parents could have done to stop me eating sugar. If they didn’t give it to me I would buy it and if I had no money I would steal it. This isn’t the exercise of a free will – I knew it was wrong and bad for me – the simple fact is that sugar is addictive and it is relentlessly pushed to children by multi-national companies.

In response to this unprecedented public health emergency (not my words, their’s) the PHE said in their strategy that they were going to solve the childhood obesity crisis by releasing a smartphone app. A smartphone app to take on the hundreds of millions spent on advertising, branding, packaging and all the other paraphernalia that these enormous corporations can bring to bear to persuade children to eat junk… save me… and btw, where is it??

If you want just a taster of how Big Food behave, here’s an article from an ex-sugar pusher in the same paper on the same day as the PHE article – again, without a hint of irony anywhere to be seen.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/02/former-advertising-executive-reveals-big-foods-junk-food-pushing-tactics

And finally, just to add to my feeling that we might actually have gone through the looking glass, the Sun heaps irony on irony with its front page, simultaneously advertising the undoubted charms of Joe Wicks and his weight loss strategy and railing against the PHE guidelines as a restriction on children’s freedom to choose to dig their own graves with their teeth. As if they have any choice in it…

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Let’s just skip January and go straight to February.