A group of over 100 diabetes experts from across Scotland and the UK has called for legislative action to ban all forms of advertising of unhealthy foods to children in order to reduce increasing obesity levels and, in turn, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Obesity a significant health challenge
The experts report that in recent years obesity levels have increased significantly, with two thirds of the UK adult population currently classed as overweight and one quarter obese. With obesity posing a significant health challenge, carrying a strong risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) convened a UK-wide meeting of diabetes experts in order to reach a consensus on how best to tackle this major threat to the nation's health.
Tighter regulation of food, drink and catering industries
After considering the evidence, and in addition to making a number of practical clinical recommendations for improving diabetes care, the group has called for tighter legislative regulation of the food, drink and catering industry. They are also seeking an extension of current restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods to children during, for example, children’s TV programmes, to the non-broadcast media and the wider marketing environment.
“We believe that the lessons from effective legislation on smoking should be used to promote healthier diets, increased physical activity and to inform transport and planning policy. This should involve tighter regulation of the food and drink industry and the extension of restrictions on 'less healthy' food and drink advertising in children’s television programmes to all forms of advertising aimed at children," said Dr Scott Ramsay, lead organiser of the event for the RCPE.
Cases of Type 2 diabetes now seen in children as young as seven
Head of Policy at leading health charity Diabetes UK, Bridget Turner, said: “As a result of increasing obesity levels among young people in the UK, we are now seeing cases of Type 2 diabetes – historically a condition to affect the over 40s – in children as young as seven. This worrying situation was almost unheard of just twenty years ago and should act as the wake-up call for the new coalition government to urgently push through legislation to ban all junk food advertising aimed at children.
“Marketing legislation must run alongside measures to address the lack of affordable access to local sports and recreational facilities in the UK, and the dangers of obesity must be promoted at every opportunity alongside support to help families change to more healthy eating habits.”