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Friday 18 August 2017

The number of calories in popular children’s food has been called into question today (Friday 18 August) after the Government announced the next stage of their world-leading childhood obesity plan.

Public Health England will now consider the evidence on children’s calorie consumption and set the ambition for the calorie reduction programme to remove excess calories from the foods children consume the most.

We asked Dr Ali Hill, course leader for BSc (Hons) Applied Human Nutrition here at Solent University, her views on this latest news:

As a Registered Nutritionist and mother to two young children, I read with interest today’s announcement regarding future plans for reducing the calories in popular foods, such as pizzas, burgers and ready meals.

Child obesity is a huge problem in the UK. One in five Year Reception children are overweight, and by the time they reach Year 6 that number increases to one in three. Obesity figures show the same trend - one in ten Year Reception children, and one in five Year 6 children are obese.[1]

There are a lot of health problems associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. There are currently more children in the UK being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than we’ve ever had before, some as young as seven[2]. And let’s not forget that obese children often become obese adults, meaning they are still likely to suffer from obesity-related illness when they are older.

Reducing calories in ready meals, pizzas, burgers, savoury snacks and sandwiches could make a huge impact, but it needs to be done as part of a series of wider measures.

Keen to crack down on the nations addiction to sugar, the Government has already tasked the food industry with reducing sugar in foods by 5% by August 2017, and 20% by 2020; and the sugar tax comes into effect in April next year.

But a lot of the problem with nutrition can also come from the fact that people feel they get conflicting messages about what they should and shouldn’t be eating; and this seems to have become a bigger issue with the rise of social media.

Ensuring workers on the front-line are properly trained in nutrition is massively important. For instance, we were the first university in the UK to offer our fitness and sport students the option to study nutrition modules that are certified at Level 3 of the Association for Nutrition Competency Framework in Fitness and Leisure; giving future sport coaches and fitness professionals the training to give out the right messages to their clients.

This year we’ve gone one step further, offering a three-year degree in Applied Human Nutrition. This degree will train our students to be multi-skilled and give them as many opportunities as possible to get practical experience - working with the local community, including children, in an effort to reduce obesity and improve nutrition.

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Dr Ali Hill is the course leader for the BSc (Hons) Applied Human Nutrition at Southampton Solent University. She attained her BSc in plant science from the University of Glasgow, and then completed an MSc in nutritional science at Massey University in New Zealand. On returning to the UK, she completed a PhD in nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton and a PG Cert in applied sports nutrition at St Mary's University College, London. She has worked in swimming and triathlon coaching since 2009.

[1] National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) 2015-16

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/next-stage-of-world-leading-childhood-obesity-plan-announced