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Calorie Reduction Deal - but.........

A week later than intended the Department of Health [DH] has published the calorie reduction pledges that it has secured from the food industry as part of its Responsibility Deal plan.  The announcement was to have been made on March 14th to celebrate the 1st Anniversary of the idea of pledges being agreed and the script for the day called for a fanfare tp herald a number of " momentum building " exemplars to showcase the commitment of industry to health.  Unfortunately, key industry players such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King didn't read the script and the announcement has had to be made without them pledging anything.  The fact that the DH Press Release publicising the pledges was embargoed to midnight last night also gives the impression that someone thought that a Saturday would be a better day to bury  " not such good news ".

The Deal is, however, a beginning with a lot more work to be done - and DH has admitted as much.  In the end, the National Obesity Forum believes that regulation/legislation will be required to bring everybody into line: the majority of the 75% of brands who signed the pledge have only " promised " to do things: they have not specified how many calories they will take out and by when.  Coca Cola - acknowledged by NOF for its commitment to swap sugar for sweeteners in many of its soft drinks brands - is an exception.  It will take 30% of calories out by 2014 by its use of stevia.  Tesco should be also be complimented on its decision to make shopping for low-calorie products easier by adding a " Green Ping " label to the packaging - a " traffic lights " system if there ever was one!  One day the UK will see the end to the impossibly complicated GDA food labelling system.

High St chains who don't list calorie information


Major High St food outlets such as Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Garfunkels have shunned the government initiative to reduce obesity by not displaying calorie counts with their products.  The watchdog Which? has marked the 1st Anniversary of the launch of the Department of Health's [DH] " Responsibility Deal " with the food and drink industry by naming and shaming the companies that have declined to play ball.  " If food companies don't agree to help people eat more healthily, " Which? insists, " then we must see legislation to force them to do so ".  In reply, the DH has challenged the Which?  list by stating that it had secured pledges that more than 70% of fast food and takeaway meals had calorie values attached - thanks to McDonalds, Pret a Manger, Yo! Sushi and Subway.

The Forum, listed by the GUARDIAN as a group which believes that legislation or regulation is long overdue, is particularly dismayed that the 1st Anniversary has not witnessed the DH naming the food giants who it lobbied to sign a calorie reduction pledge.  Momentum-building exemplars were " promised " - but not delivered.  If the DH wants to see 5bn calories less eaten daily across the nation, this will not be achieved by bits of calorie information here and there - but it might be with serious calorie reduction of food stuffed with high levels of fat, salt and sugar.  



Bariatric surgery up 30-fold in decade

The Healthy Survey for England figures for 2010/11 show a 30-fold increase in 2010's bariatric surgery when compared to 2000.  The 2000's 8,087 operations, even though they include 1,444 for band adjustments, dwarfs the 261 that were "headline news " 12 years ago.  There was also a significant regional variation in the number of operations carried out and hospital admissions were also increasing - and increasingly varied across the country  - and three times more women than men were being given a primary diagnosis of obesity.  Tim Straughan,CEO of the NHS Information Centre which publishes the Survey, confirmed the growing impact of obesity on both people's health and NHS resources and suggested that health professionals working in the field might want to examine the regional discrepanicies.

Regional variations are very concerning to the National Obesity Forum [NOF] and, having examined them, it believes that they illustrate a postcode lottery which still exists in England.  It is deplorable.  Some Primary Care Trusts [PCTs] abide by the NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] in offering bariatric operations to obese patients  but others flout it by making it virtually impossible even for the morbidly obese to qualify for the surgery.  Hospital admissions vary similarly from region to region due to the disinclination of a significant number of surgeries referring needy patients.  The premise is that obesity is the patients' own fault and that the NHS shouldn't be expected to pay for treatment. 


966 calories - and counting?

Daily Mail

Now here's a fast-food meal that will make YOU a whopper, runs the Daily Mail's headline. The paper states that Burger King's latest - a 966 calorie Smoked Bacon and Cheddar double Angus burger - has been blasted by health critics.  Too right it has.

At a stroke, as they say in Westminster, the high street chain has run a coach and horses through the government's promise, made 24 hrs earlier, that people on the high street can be reassured that its Responsibility Deal with the food industry is working.  Further proof that responsibility appears not to be in the forefront of  the food industry's mind is Tesco's decision to sell £1 bars of Kitkat for 20p in order to lure customers back into their stores after Christmas! The chain also decided to put Easter Eggs on its shelves on Boxing Day [although it upset one customer who criticised her store for forgetting that chocolates for Valentine's Day should have been its priority!].  Finally, another Responsibility Deal backer, McDonalds has proudly added to the calorie count by declaring that 100 million additional customer visits darkened its doors in 2011. Big Macs are now available in 384 round-the-clock franchises that operate seven days a week. Enjoy.  

But take heart if you are reading this in the UK.  USA media are amazed that the National Obesity Forum is carping at a 966 calorie item. They suggest that we might be quite lost for words when presented with the 1,000+ calorie burgers that ring the tills across the Atlantic.  How long will it be, one wonders, before these gut-busting meals pop up here because our government has lost any stomach to take on Big Food? 

Byetta/Victoza get a shot in the arm


Although they have been available for some time as treatments for diabetes, drug Byetta and Victoza - drugs that mimic a gut hormone suppressing appetite - looks as if they might be a simple once-a-day injection that takes care of obesity, too.  National Obesity Forum chairman, Professor David Haslam, says tha they really have the potential for revolutionising treatment.  " Safety wise they are pretty good. I am using them on my patients and have had a lot of success. For some they have helped lose four stone and have brought blood sugar under control for the first time ". The have also helped patients blood pressure and reduced cholesterol and enzyme levels.

It is not all good news of course. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea but trails reported in the BMJ [Jan 14th] suggest that overall patient satisfaction with the treatment is relatively high.   Thankfully a drug for obesity may be no longer limited to Alli or the XLS Fat Binder pills available over-the-counter at pharmacies.