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Unhealthy lifestyles and poor diets

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Monday, 14 November 2016

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unhealthy food_shutterstock_291052160.jpgA systematic analysis* for the Global Burden of Disease Study recently published in The Lancet has shown that age-specific mortality has steadily improved over the past 35 years. This increase is mainly due to improvements in sanitation and also in immunisation programmes.

There has been an impressive reduction in deaths caused by infections. However, the proportion of deaths associated with poor lifestyle has dramatically increased; the increase in deaths from non-infectious diseases has risen from 57.6% to 71.3% since 1990. The causes of these deaths is mainly heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. This increase appears to be related to poor lifestyle, namely poor diets, smoking and excess alcohol intake.

This is such a concern as these deaths could easily be prevented with improved lifestyles. The rise in obesity rates continues in many countries and associated with this is the rise in the incidence of diabetes. This is clearly adversely affecting the health of many people but also leading to a massive financial drain on resources for healthcare.

People seem generally confused or not bothered about their diets and this really needs to improve and change. There have been numerous studies recently showing that fizzy drinks, even diet versions, and also sugary drinks, are partly to blame for the increase in obesity and diabetes. Drinking two fizzy drinks a day can actually double the risk of diabetes. This appears to occur by inducing insulin resistance. In addition, drinking drinks containing artificial sweeteners can stimulate appetite and thereby increasing food intake. Other studies have shown that drinking fizzy drinks can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In addition to the proposed introduction of tax on sugary drinks, there has recently been an announcement that the NHS is considering banning the sale of all sugary drinks in hospitals. This could be done as part of efforts to reduce obesity among healthcare workers.

I am sure this a step in the right direction but surely supermarkets and shops need to take note and change what they are selling? Encouraging patients to drink water instead of fizzy drinks certainly appears to be a good place to start in a bid to reduce obesity and improve health.


* Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. The Lancet, Volume 388, No. 10053, p1459–1544, 8 October 2016. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31012-1

Author's Image

Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including www.patient.info. She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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