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    Friday, 10 March 2017

    The Detrimental British Diet

    Sausage rolls are a constant snack in England, and they’re exactly what they sound like – a sausage encased in pastry. Another popular hot snack is pasties – a pastry filled with a heavy, savoury filling. Curries are a common takeaway which basically delivers naught but a creamy sauce with a handful of vegetables and meat. One can hardly forget the ever-popular drunken indulgence: a kebab. Greasy, dripping with fat, these meat and breading concoctions are often eaten sans salad.

    It’s widely acknowledged that these food items are not healthy, but that doesn’t stop people from going against their better instincts and downing the lot over a weekend. With a society that has made these options more readily available than salads with hearty toppings and veggie-rich options, what’s to be done?

    Out of the European countries, Britain is by far the fattest. As of 2016, UK obesity rates clock 28.4% of women and 26.2% of men. As it stands, nearly four in ten adults are obese. This is confusing, as other countries have somewhat similar diets consisting of more meat and bread than fruits and vegetables; Austria and Germany come to mind. However, each has a significantly lower percentage of obese people than the UK, 11% and 12.9% respectively.

    The extra poundage could have something to do with the drinking culture and the fact that alcohol has been shown to increase the appetite.  Abstaining from the drink on the island will cause people to look at you as though you’re a walking wonder, an abnormality. So, people just get on with it. The average British adult consumes something like 500 pints a year, winning the UK 16th place worldwide as the country with the highest average amount of alcohol drunk annually. Couple this unhealthy cultural mainstay with an equally disastrous diet and it’s no wonder that the nation is thinking up novel ways to battle obesity in adults and children.

    Steps towards Change
    To encourage a better diet it is important to make available healthy options. Walking into the local supermarket, one will find that prices of fresh fruit and vegetable are much higher than those of ready-made meals. Fresh produce should be cheaper than processed and ready-made meals as is the case in stores “in continental Europe which tempt customers with seasonal fruits and vegetables, at much lower prices.” 

    Preparing a fresh meal is more expensive and time-consuming than picking up a processed alternative, though these are often packed with salt and chemicals. Researchers attribute rising obesity rates to “reliance on cheap, convenience meals and snacks consumed during busy working lives.” People have been warned that continuing to consume unhealthful diets of processed foods will suffer from obesity-related illnesses later in life, including cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart attacks.

    Lowering the price of raw ingredients is a good bid for bettering the nation’s diet; however, it fails to address the larger problem of mindset. The average British diet consists of an inordinate amount of processed foods, chips, and bread all in addition to cakes and biscuits. This chronically-unhealthy lifestyle is a part of a wider mindset that embraces the idea of healthfulness.

    Amanda Hamilton, a nutritionist and healthy eater, substituted her balanced diet for that of “Mrs. Average” for one week to see the impact the diet has on a normally healthy person. For the new diet she tacked on an extra 250 calories on top of her normal 2,000 per day. The end result: she gained 2.3kg (5lb) and two inches on her waist. However, this is the least worrying information to come of her experiment. Hamilton’s cholesterol levels went way up and her iron levels dropped by 1g. Her gallbladder doubled in size in order to process all the extra fat. This is after one week of an average British diet!
    • Hamilton’s Healthy Diet: scrambled eggs with tomatoes, yoghurt with fruit, soup, warm chicken salad, nuts fruit, rice noodles, baked potatoes
    • ‘Naughty’ Treats: dark chocolate, gingerbread, fried calamari, wine
    • Average British Diet: pre-packaged breakfast biscuits, steak pie, ready-meal macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, crisps, Haribo candy, fizzy drinks
    The experiment was carried out as a part of a documentary for the ITV show Tonight. Hamilton followed the make-up of calories consumed by Britons to the letter; Britons eat 29% more saturated fat than the recommended daily intake (RDI), 14% more salt than RDI and 26% more sugar than RDI. To make matters worse, the average diet is sorely lacking in the RDI for fibre and totally skimps on fresh produce, only getting three of the five recommended a day. 

    Hamilton was shocked by the results of the experiment, “It’s frightening to think what would – and does – happen to people who eat like this everyday.” Aside from the weight gain, Hamilton reported feeling sluggish, low on energy, depressed and addicted to sugar.

    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).

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