No age group eats well despite thinking they know what's healthy

Sustain member the British Dietetic Association is calling on the NHS to provide support to help people eat more healthily and reduce the burden of conditions caused by unhealthy diets following new survey data.

Variety of foods. Photo credit: Pexels

Variety of foods. Photo credit: Pexels

The National and Diet Nutrition Survey shows that no age group meets dietary recommendations despite two thirds of British people thinking advice on healthy eating is clear.

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.

BDA Chair Caroline Bovey BEM believes dietitians have the behaviour change skills and nutritional expertise to support people to improve their diet in a practical and sustainable way:

“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.”

Online advice

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.”


Diabetes and malnutrition crisis

These findings come at a time when more people are suffering from diet and lifestyle related conditions than ever before. 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.

Statistics also show that more people than ever are suffering the effects of malnutrition, with elderly people particularly affected. 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.

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