Brits want more support to eat a healthy diet says BDA31 May 2019
New survey data shows that two thirds of Brits think advice on healthy eating is clear. But the most recent National and Diet Nutrition Survey shows that no age group meets dietary recommendations[i], leading the British Dietetic Association to call for the NHS to provide more support to help people eat more healthily and reduce the burden of conditions caused by unhealthy diets.
Nearly 40% of those asked said they would appreciate access to a registered dietitian for dietary advice and support. Despite this, the NHS currently employs fewer than 7,000 dietitians, meaning many people have to wait weeks to see a dietitian when referred by a GP or consultant.
Dietitians have the behaviour change skills and nutritional expertise to support people to improve their diet in a practical and sustainable way.
Chloe Adams, BDA Policy Officer for Professional Practice and recent BDA Trade Union representative in the NHS, said “Dietetic services are overstretched and people are unable to access the help and advice they need. Even patients with diagnosed medical conditions are having to wait long periods to receive support, let alone those who would benefit from support to prevent health problems further down the line.”
BDA Chair Caroline Bovey BEM agrees; “Dietetic services across the UK are doing an amazing job but they could be doing so much more. Bad diet is the single biggest lifestyle factor in determining ill health – even more than smoking – so it is ridiculous that we have so few health professionals who specialise in diet and nutrition. This survey shows there is significant demand from the public - governments and commissioners need to ensure they are meeting this need.”
The same survey showed most people continue to get their information about healthy eating from TV shows and social media rather than from expert, trustworthy sources such as dietitians or doctors.
BDA Spokesperson Linia Patel RD says “It isn’t surprising that people are getting so much of their advice from online and on the telly, but the problem is this advice is often not based on scientific evidence. The internet now means we’ve got access to more information than ever before, and it can be difficult to sift the fact from the fiction.”
While there are good sources of information online, such as NHS UK, Linia is often concerned by what she sees. “Some advice given online is at best incorrect and at worst outright dangerous. This is why it is so important that more people are able to access the services of a dietitian who will use the latest scientific evidence to help you find the best and healthiest way of eating for you.”
Obesity, diabetes and malnutrition crisis
These findings come at a time when more people are suffering from diet and lifestyle related conditions than ever before.
Latest figures from the NHS show that 29% of the adult population are now obese, up from 26% in 2016[ii]. Research published in April of this year highlighted how people with obesity are at a 70% higher risk of developing heart failure[iii]. Government estimates that treating overweight and obesity costs the NHS over £6 billion a year[iv] – and this is a conservative estimate. 711,000 hospital admissions had obesity as a factor in 2019. That’s an increase of 15% since 2016i.
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the past two decades and more than 4.7 million people now have diabetes, 90% of whom have type 2 which is related to lifestyle factors[v].
Stats also show that more people than ever are suffering the effects of malnutrition, with elderly people particularly effected. Over three million people a year are suffering the effects of not eating enough, with 1.3 million of those being over 65. It’s estimated that 30-42% of patients admitted to care homes are at risk of malnutrition[vi]. Being undernourished increases your risk of complications and frailty and increases the length of hospital stays.
Notes to the Editor
- Polling for the British Dietetic Association (BDA) was undertaken by Populus of 2016 adults between 15-16 April 2019.
- Caroline Bovey, Linia Patel and Chloe Adams are available for interviews. Please contact the BDA Press Office on 0800 048 1714 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9,000 members.
- Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
- Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals.~