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Scottish government crackdown on unhealthy food offers

The promotion of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt is to be restricted in Scotland, ministers have confirmed.

The Scottish government plans the move as part of its new diet and obesity strategy to help people lose weight.

Ministers also want to see the broadcast of TV adverts for unhealthy food banned before the 21:00 watershed.

TV chef Jamie Oliver, a prominent campaigner for healthier eating, described it as “trailblazing” and urged the UK government to follow suit.  He said: “This is an amazing step towards making sure the healthiest choice is the easiest choice – for everyone.  “Today, Scotland has set an example to the rest of the world. It has picked up the baton that Westminster dropped last year. So, now the ball is back in the UK government’s court.  “We need to ensure everyone in Britain has a chance to raise their children in a healthy environment.”

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said obesity “significantly increases” the risk of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Ms Campbell launched a consultation on the plans at Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh, where she met participants in the Football Fans in Training programme.

She later told MSPs that the government was putting forward “bold” measures which would “make a real, lasting difference to the country’s health”. These include plans to restrict price promotions on food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt in areas around visitor attractions and on routes to schools, and £40m of investment to deliver almost 100,000 “supported weight management interventions” for people with or at risk of type two diabetes.

Ms Campbell also said that if the UK government did not commit to banning TV adverts for unhealthy food before the 21:00 watershed, the Scottish government would ask for powers to be devolved so it could do so itself.

Aileen Campbell launched the consultation on the obesity strategy at Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh.  The SNP MSP said: “Simply put, it’s harming the people of Scotland. It also puts pressure on the NHS, other public services and our economy. “That is why we need commitment and action from everyone across all sectors and at all levels including government, citizens, the public sector and businesses right across the country.”

Health and retail organisations broadly welcomed the consultation, alongside opposition parties. Cancer Research UK said it was “great to see a range of bold proposals” in the strategy, saying that Scotland has been “in the grip of an obesity epidemic for far too long”.

The British Medical Association Scotland said “ambitious” action was needed “across every part of society in Scotland if we are to successfully reduce levels of obesity in future years”.

The Scottish Grocers Federation said “clamping down on promotions” was “too blunt an instrument to really impact on consumer behaviour”, but welcomed the consultation and said the key role retailers had to play would be reflected in their response.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said efforts to tackle obesity “could not come soon enough”, stressing the need to work across parties and portfolios to do so.

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth said the “obesity crisis is the single biggest public health challenge facing Scotland today”, and said “bold, radical action is very much needed”.

Chris Matthews, Founder and CEO of Silverlink Clinics commented “any effort to reduce the exposure we have to this type of advertising can only be a good thing”. He also observed that “we will look back in a generations time and be as shocked at the adverts that food companies run today as we are when we look back at our parent’s generation allowing tobacco to be advertised on mainstream media”.

The consultation on the diet and obesity strategy will run until the end of January 2018.

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NHS Bans Chocolate !

Super-sized chocolate bars will be driven out of hospital shops and canteens under new targets to tackle obesity, the head of NHS England has pledged.

Hospitals will receive extra funding if they limit most sweets and chocolates on sale to a maximum of 250 calories, under the plans.

Simon Stevens said there was a need to fight the “super-size snack culture” as he set the new rules for sweets and chocolate sold in hospital canteens, shops and vending machines.

This means that most larger packs of chocolate and “grab bags” of sweets will be taken off the shelves.

The Royal Voluntary Service – the biggest hospital retailer across the UK – said that by introducing such schemes early, it had boosted sales of sushi and salad by 55 per cent, with fruit sales up by one quarter.

From next April, hospitals will be able to receive a share of a £150m “health and wellbeing” fund if they achieve new targets.

Under the rules, 80 per cent of sweets and chocolates on sale must contain 250 calories or less, and 80 per cent of sugary drinks must have less than 5g of added sugar per 100ml.

All food and drink sold in cafes, canteens, shops, kiosks and vending machines fall under the rules, which are an attempt to tackle obesity among NHS staff, and among the wider public.

Almost 700,000 NHS employees out of 1.3 million are thought to be overweight or obese, along with two in three adults in the general public.

The rules cover hot drinks – such as sweet coffees and sugary milk drinks, as well as fruit juices containing extra sugar.

Mr Stevens said: “The NHS is now stepping up action to combat the super-size snack culture which is causing an epidemic of obesity, preventable diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer.

“In place of calorie-laden, sugary snacks we want to make healthier food an easy option for hospital staff, patients and visitors.”

The targets also cover savoury foods, and the NHS has been told not to promote sugary and fatty or salty foods at checkouts.

It has ruled that 75 per cent of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals must be 400 calories or less, and must not exceed 5g of saturated fat per 100g.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Hospitals have an important role in addressing obesity – not just treating those suffering the consequences, but helping to prevent it in the first place.

“Any plans to offer healthier food are a positive step towards tackling the country’s obesity problem.”

Andrew Roberts, business enterprise manager for Royal Voluntary Service, said that in the first quarter of 2017 its outlets had seen year-on-year sales of fruit increase by 25 per cent, healthier chilled snacks like salad and sushi by 55 per cent and healthier sweet and savoury snacks like popcorn and dried fruit by 109 cent.

He added: “We will be implementing these new guidelines and are hopeful that they will result in healthier food being a more consistent feature in all hospital retailers.”

NHS trusts receive a share of a £150m health and wellbeing fund if they meet targets to introduce healthy food, hit flu vaccination targets and reduce levels of and staff sickness.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said the measures were welcome, with a 250kcal chocolate bar is “quite sufficient snack for anybody”.

But he suggested the NHS should introduce “more draconian measures” if levels of obesity continue to rise, banning all sugary foods with more than 250 calories, rather than 80 per cent of them. And he said a complete ban on products with added sugar should be considered for hospital inpatients.

“Sugar is the new tobacco: ban it,” he said.

Helen Dickens, from Diabetes UK, welcomed the moves, which she said would make it easier for everyone to make healthier choices, especially while in hospital.

But she called on the Government to go further.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling obesity. We need to go much further, which is why we are also calling for the Government to toughen restrictions on junk food marketing to children, end price promotions on unhealthy foods and introduce mandatory front of pack food labelling,” she said.

Chris Matthews from Silverlink Clinics commented ‘I may have found a flaw in this plan, won’t people simply buy two bars’?

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Rise of the MAMILS…

Last week on my drive to the clinic I was overtaken by a Mamil.  The species are an increasingly common sight on the roads of Cumbria.  Many were brought out of hibernation during the Tour of Britain cycle race.

The MAMILS’ to which I refer are of course Middle Aged Men In Lycra.  I would love to say I coined this acronym but unfortunately, the credit goes to a partner at retail analyst Mintel, the people responsible for knowing what we like so companies can sell us stuff more effectively.

The surprising fact is that I was overtaken by this particular Mamil while driving a high powered BMW, admittedly I was sat in traffic doing about 20 mph at the time he rode past me at about 35 mph.  I know it was the male of the species, as those of you who have had an encounter will understand, the Lycra hides very little from an anatomical standpoint.

Every weekend, across Cumbia’s rolling countryside, you can observe the species sat atop their steed which will have cost several thousand pounds. Ladies, if you have a man at home taking an unusual interest in how you shave your legs, you may have a Mamil in the making too.

Research conducted by Mintel suggests there has been a surge in the number of middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels. Has the silence of skinny tyres and carbon fibre framesets replaced the thunderous noise of motorbikes?

Back in the day, when some men with a bit of disposable income reached a certain age, they did some strange things. The grind of the office and home life convinced some that the answer to an expanding midriff lay in a pair of designer jeans a baseball cap and a flashy but cheap Japanese sports car. Teenage daughters ran away screaming with embarrassment. Sons were deprived of the role models seen in adverts for shaving products.

The past three years have seen the rise of the uber-techno, super-flashy, full-carbon fibre, second mortgage inducing road bike. The market for these bikes has expanded faster than a 45-year-old’s waistline, partly thanks to the success of the British cycling stars in the Olympics and Tour de France.

Marketing departments have produced smart advertising messages that encourage a bit of freedom, elite performance and memories of teenage years spent on two wheels.  The result can be seen on Saturday and Sunday mornings as middle-aged blokes polish the carbon fibre, lower the mirrored shades and pedal Lycra clad into the hills.

While the serious, younger riders are busy getting into the zone of elite competition, the Mamil is comparing the latest GPS route-finding cycle computer and pretending that they know how to stretch.

Flash road bikes look like a midlife crisis, but so what?  A man becomes fitter and happier. Where’s the midlife crisis in that? Well, there is the cost to consider.

The must-have bike of the summer is apparently Pinarello Dogma, the bike used by the British Team Sky in the Tour de France. Yours for about £7,000. Grown men stop, stare and lick the window of high-end cycle shops to catch a glimpse of this bike.

Wives, look away now. Men who seriously cycle typically spend about £3,000 to live that dream. For a time, at least. That sum will cover the set-up and the first year, then about £1,000 a year, at least, on top of that.  All this is paid for using a secret credit card he has.

This has resulted in the rapid growth of a middle-class money-laundering operation.  It goes something like this. Husband drools while looking at a pair of £140 shorts on cycling website – they’re the kind that have a padded seat that makes you look like you’re wearing an adult incontinence pad.  Wife says no, “think about the new kitchen we need”. Man continues to drool at shorts and decides they will help conceal his 38-inch waist.

He calculates that three weeks of hard pedalling will help on the belly front – which is coincidentally the same time it takes to receive a secret new credit card to pay for the shorts. Job done. “Gold Ambassador” status achieved with the online cycling retailer. Discounts on more kit, all of which is sent directly to the office rather than home.

When you run the numbers on all this, flash carbon fibre road bikes, and tight Lycra looks like a midlife crisis.  Namely, there’s a look to strive for, expensive kit and excuses for weekends away.

I’m all in favour of Mamils if it’s about becoming a happier and healthier person rather than sliding towards mediocre oblivion at the bottom of a pint glass.

I offer this advice;

If your portly husband buys another ridiculously tight pair of cycling shorts and keeps blunting your lady shaver doing his legs in a vain attempt to make himself more aerodynamic; simply pop out to Carlisle’s new Primark and buy yourself a couple of new outfits and some shoes, then hide them in your wardrobe.

When he asks “are those clothes new”, explode with rage saying “I’ve had them ages”, he will not dare challenge you!

Also this way, at least one of you will not look ridiculous in your new outfit.

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Growing Old Disgracefully…

I write this blog having just returned from an awards ceremony in London, where we picked up an award for our Alevere Weight Loss Therapy on behalf of the Alevere network of twenty eight clinics. Disappointingly I did not get to do an Oscars style speech, much to the relief of Rachel my wife.

Our award was one of many given out on the night, with other awards being presented to clinics in the beauty and aesthetics industry, many specialising in administering facial muscle paralysing drugs, such as Botox.  Many in the room were unable to show surprise when their awards were announced as they were incapable of moving their eyebrows.

It was clear that some of the attendees were prepared to go to considerable lengths to halt the march of time by attempting to iron out any signs of wrinkles where wrinkles should be when we reach a certain age.

My middle daughter, thirteen, recently asked me, ‘Dad, why have you got so many wrinkles around your eyes?’ I replied, ‘I have one on each side for each of my children.’ She went on to say ‘You have a lot more than four kids then Dad!’  I will have the last laugh though when I do some Dad dancing outside the car with my eighties music blaring when I collect her from school.

I’m excepting of the fact that I am approaching middle age, although I am keen to discover a suitable scientific explanation as to why the male ears and nose start to sprout hair at this point in our lives.  The average age of patients across our clinics is forty-six for women and forty-eight for men.  This has been consistent over the last five and a bit years.

I’ve often wondered why the age of our patients has remained so consistent.  I once asked a typical female patient, why she had chosen to seek our help at this stage in her life.  She explained that for the first time in her adult life she did not feel guilty about putting herself first, ahead of family and other commitments.  Her children were now in their twenties and she had more disposable income and she felt she deserved to ‘treat’ herself.

The lady went on to lose over six stone and during her several weeks of treatment I watched a self-confidence appear that had not been present when we first met.   In a later conversation, she told me she had been married for over twenty years, I joked that with her that with her new found confidence she might be tempted to go and find a younger husband.  She replied, ‘it’s taken me twenty years to train the current one, I’m not going through that again’.