Eliminating a large glass of wine, a pint of beer or a chocolate bar from the diet of overweight Britons would halve obesity levels, experts say.
The UK is in the midst of a major obesity crisis, with two in three adults overweight, costing the NHS £6bn every year.
The analysis by Nesta, which calls itself an ‘innovation agency for social good’, found that cutting just over 200 calories from the diet of the average overweight Briton could halve obesity rates.
The figure is equivalent to about a large glass of wine (227), a pint of beer (182), 500 ml of Coca Cola (210) or two and a half McVitie’s Chocolate Digestive cookies.
The analysis by Nesta, which calls itself an ‘innovation agency for social good’, found that cutting 216 calories from the diet of the average overweight Briton could halve obesity rates. The figure is equivalent to about a large glass of wine (227), a pint of beer (182), 500 ml of Coca Cola (210) or two and a half McVitie’s Chocolate Digestive cookies. The number is in line with cutting a slice of chocolate cake (230), three packages of Skips (213) or four rashers of bacon (230). It also equates to about a Chunky Kit Kat (203), a Classic Magnum (230) or a 35g serving of salted peanuts (214).
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grain, according to the NHS.
• Eat at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains
• Thirty grams of fiber a day. This is the same as eating all of the following: five servings of fruits and vegetables, two whole grain crackers, two thick slices of whole wheat bread, and one large baked potato with skin on.
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks), choosing options that are low in fat and sugar.
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other protein (including two servings of fish a week, one of which should be fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat them in small amounts
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Nesta is campaigning to halve the prevalence of obesity by 2030, bringing levels back to those of the early 1990s (14%).
For comparison, 28 per cent of Brits have a BMI over 30 now.
Data scientist Elena Mariani and her team calculated how many calories overweight Britons would need to eliminate from their diet to reduce their obesity levels to those of three decades ago.
The analysis used a “gold standard” government-backed model that estimates weight loss in response to reduced calories.
The results showed that people would need to cut 216 calories per day, on average.
The number is in line with cutting a slice of chocolate cake (230), three packages of Skips (213) or four rashers of bacon (230).
It also equates to about a Chunky Kit Kat (203), a Classic Magnum (230) or a 35g serving of salted peanuts (214).
For men, the figure was 241 calories, while women would need to cut 190 calories, which equates to a reduction of about 8.5 percent.
But the team urged people not to use these numbers to set individual calorie reduction goals.
Instead, there should be a population-level intervention to reformulate foods, reduce junk food advertising and shift promotions toward healthier foods, they said.
These could include manufacturers changing their recipes and serving sizes.
In a separate analysis, the Nesta researchers said that cakes, biscuits, chocolate and ready meals, along with chips and savory cakes, contributed the most calories to UK shopping baskets.
Reformulating these products to reduce between five and 10 per cent of their calories would see the average person in the UK lose 38 calories from their diet each day.
Most Britons would not notice any change in the products they consume as a result of this ‘stealthy’ measure, but the overall effect on health is ‘significant’, Nesta said.
To achieve this, the government must set mandatory calorie reduction targets for the most harmful foods and incentivize companies to meet them.
You should also create an institution to oversee these efforts that sets targets, monitors compliance, and issues fines when they’re not met.
A ranking of supermarkets that do everything they can to make food healthier should be formed, forcing stores to share their data, he added.
Ravi Gurumurthy, chief executive of Nesta, said halving obesity is a “significant but achievable challenge.”
He said: ‘The number of people living with obesity has doubled in 30 years and that has very little to do with willpower or our personal choices.
“Over three decades, the food and drinks we buy have gotten bigger, cheaper, and much more caloric.
Nesta is campaigning to halve the prevalence of obesity by 2030, which will bring levels back to those of the early 1990s, when they were half the levels seen now. Pictured: Graph showing rates of obesity (yellow) and overweight and obesity (purple) since 1992
Official figures show that for every 1,000 adults in England, more than a quarter are obese (dark purple), more than a third are overweight (light purple), while just 36 per cent are not.
‘There is a compelling case for the government to invest seriously in prevention.
‘The NHS is under terrible pressure, partly because of capacity and investment, but also because of demand. Prevention and capacity must be the twin pillars of public service restoration.
‘We know that the mantra of willpower and personal responsibility is a dead end.
“Reformulating a few select food categories in a fairly small amount is good value and requires no effort on the part of the consumer.”
Nesta will use these findings to build a methodology to ‘assess the potential impact of different interventions in the food environment’.
Slimming down Britain would save the NHS around £3.25bn a year by increasing the number of healthy years people live, Nesta said.
Being overweight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, and stroke.
The obesity epidemic is estimated to cost the UK £54bn each year and eat up £6.5bn of the NHS budget due to weight related diseases. The figure is projected to rise to £9.7bn per year by 2050, as the nation gets even fatter.
A calorie is a way of measuring energy, either the amount contained in food or the amount used through activity.
People gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn through daily activities. To lose weight, you need to use more calories than you take in.