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Sustain / Food Access Network / What is food poverty?

What are the consequences of food poverty?

Food poverty can result in a poor diet, which is linked to diet-related ill health.  There are both personal and economic costs associated with ill heath.

Diet-related ill health is responsible for about 10 per cent of deaths in the UK, and is estimated to cost the NHS some £6 billion every year. This is more than double the cost of tobacco use. The list of diseases linked to a poor diet gets longer with almost every piece of scientific research.  Some of the most common diet-related diseases include:


Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. Type 1 diabetes develops if the body is unable to produce any insulin (the hormone that controls glucose in the blood) and requires daily injections. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the insulin that is produced does not work properly. In most cases this is linked to being overweight.

  • Around 1.4m people in UK are diagnosed diabetic (1m are Type 2)
  • The dietary changes recommended to reduce the risk of and/or manage type 2 diabetes include increasing the amount of fibre and wholegrains in the diet as well as reducing the amount fat, sugar and salt.

For more information visit Diabetes UK website:


  • Cancers can be caused by genetic, environmental and hormonal factors, but diet is also thought to be influential
  • There is evidence that eating more fruit and vegetable decreases the risk of developing several types of cancer.
  • Experts recommend an overall balanced diet with plenty of fruit & vegetables.

For more information visit the Cancer Research UK website:

Cardio Vascular Disease – CVD (heart disease or stroke)

  • CVD is the biggest cause of death in those aged under 65 in the UK
  • Coronary Heart Disease is when the walls of the coronary arteries become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material, and a blockage can cause angina, heart attack or death.
  • A stroke is what happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Because the brain controls everything the body does, damage to the brain will affect body functions.
  • A healthy, balanced diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables and foods that are low high in fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease

For more information visit the websites of the British Heart Foundation: or the Stroke Association:


  • Obesity is measured using Body Mass Index (height to weight ratio)
  • The more overweight a person is the more likely they are likely to be at risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • It is estimated 30,000 deaths a year in the UK are related to obesity.

For more information: National Obesity Forum -

Undernutrition (also known as malnutrition)

  • Undernutrition is a deficiency of one or more nutrients resulting from a poor diet (especially a lack of fruit and vegetables)
  • It is estimated it affects 2 million people in the UK at any one time 
  • Typically around 10-40% of patients admitted to hospital are undernourished.
  • It is estimated that 10% of people over 65 living in the community are malnourished

For more information visit the European Nutrition for Health Alliance:

Food Access Network: The Food Access Network (FAN-UK) was formerly the Food Poverty project, and is now superseded by the Local Action on Food Network. These archive pages give background information on the activities of FAN-UK, which worked to tackle diet-related ill health amongst the UKs most disadvantaged communities.

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