Urgent action needed to tackle UK obesity epidemic and help low-income families eat more healthily, says nutrition expert

Professor Alexandra Johnstone, a leading nutrition researcher from Scotland’s Rowett Institute, has warned of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the obesity epidemic, reports The Press & Journal.

Low-income families turn to cheap, processed foods

Rising food insecurity is fuelling the consumption of highly processed foods

In a paper published in the journal Obesity, she said rising food insecurity was fuelling the consumption of highly-processed foods, and called for improved policy, behavioural interventions, retail strategies and the need for actionable evidence to address dietary inequalities in people living with obesity and food insecurity.

“In the UK, healthier foods are three times more expensive per calorie than unhealthy foods,” she wrote. “As a result, the dietary choices of those on the lowest incomes are often limited to a low-price, high-energy combination, which, in the long term, can promote weight gain – especially when combined with a sedentary lifestyle.”

She added: “For families on low income, the poorest fifth of the UK population need to spend 47 per cent of their disposable income to consume a healthy diet, according to the NHS Eatwell Guide, in contrast to 11 per cent needed by the richest fifth.

“If the UK Government’s obesity strategy is not maintained, then it will likely widen the existing health inequality gap even further – with the potential to worsen the health of the public and increase the prevalence of obesity in both adults and children.

“Urgent action is needed to find evidence-based solutions to deliver safe, healthy, affordable food – regardless of where people live or how much they earn.”