The report by social policy think-tank Demos, titled Turning The Tables, said lack of accessibility to healthy food created ‘significant barriers to eating healthy diets’, with around 20 million Brits struggling to afford it even before the COVID-19 lockdown.
Demos’ report follows the U.K government recently unveiling a new strategy to tackle the condition, which it described as ‘one of the greatest long-term health challenges this country faces’.
The strategy includes a raft of measures, including a watershed on adverts for unhealthy foods and for menus to display calories among others.
Obesity and COVID-19
According to the U.K government: “The urgency of tackling the obesity time bomb has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19.
“Living with excess weight puts people at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases. Nearly eight percent of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population.
“As the government continues to respond to this unprecedented global pandemic, ministers [have] set out a comprehensive package of measures to help people take control of their own future by losing weight, getting active and adopting a healthier lifestyle.”
Turning The Tables suggested several recommendations to tackle the obesity crisis. These included a government fund to develop plant-based meat alternatives and cultured meat, subsidies for healthy plant foods like vegetables, and government support for fast-food restaurants to move towards healthier foods.
In addition, it said packaging for unhealthy foods – high in fat, sugar, and salt – could adopt packaging changes to make them less appealing (similar to cigarette packs).
Rose Lasko-Skinner, one of Demos’s lead researchers, said: “Ultimately that means people are going into a shop and really struggling to come out with something that is both healthy and affordable.”