I just went to the bio store around the corner from my office and got myself chips, chocolate, and sparkling white wine. Yes, you guessed right. I have to write about healthy eating, and as a reflex I feel like eating the worst the shelf has to offer. Unfortunately, I was chatting with Ulla, the woman behind the counter and a former colleague of mine, and didn´t double check my shopping basket. At my office I unpacked dark chocolate which I hate, paprika chips which I hate as well, and white wine which doesn´t taste good. Maybe my subconscious is into healthy eating.
I promised myself not to over-research the topic at hand, which is about industrial trans-fats and whether the EU should ban them. But nutritional topics always get me, and after two glasses of sparkling wine I find myself reading about everything pubmed has to offer.
Anyway. As I always tell my friends who don´t care about the science I want to share: trying to lose weight or eat healthy seldom or never works. I sit at my best friends’ kitchen table and find books there like “losing weight during sleep”, “low carb diet”, “go vegan”. Its two o’clock at night, no sleep, and cookies and chocolate on the table, white wine in our glasses. I start to lecture her, coming as close as possible to my deepest wish to be a university professor:
Forget it, throw these books away. To live longer you don´t need a diet but the right politicians. The ones who make the laws that make it easy for you and everybody else to live healthy. If you cannot change individually, let´s do it as a population together. I have some ideas on how this should be done. But they are vague. And my friend always changes the way the conversation is going – she is lecturing me about Hanna Arendt or something I really don´t have a clue about. It´s clear I need more data.
And I just found a paper that talks about what I need to know. I want to read it with you. Here we go. (Curr Cardiol Rep. 2015; 17(11): 98.)
“While individual-level and health care system-based behavioral change efforts can be partly effective, policy changes at organizational, community, and government levels can have broader, more equitable, and more sustainable impact.”
Yep, I like, thumbs-up!
We systematically reviewed the evidence for effectiveness of specific policies to improve dietary habits and reduce cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors.
e.g.: mass media campaigns, food and menu labeling, taxation and subsidies, local built environment, school procurement policies, worksite wellness programs, and marketing standards
mass media campaigns to promote eating more fruits and veggies and to use less salt seem to help (a little bit).
Special food or menu labeling seem not to help. (If they do, they help mostly the rich and well educated, so forget it. They don´t need help unless with training in compassion for the poor.)
Yeah, money talks (would be great if my local discount baker would offer apples for less than a Euro):
Lower prices for healthy and higher prices for unhealthy food do the trick. E.G.: Mexicans drink less coke and other sugared drinks since Mexico introduced a ten percent soda tax in 2014. Espec in low income families.
Sad but true:
In sum, current evidence for effects of the local built food environment on diet or diet-related risk factors remains surprisingly limited.
Jaja, target the school kids, good luck:
In sum, changes in school procurement policies appear effective for either increasing healthful or reducing unhealthful choices, while setting of nutrition standards have less consistent benefits.
Really? Worksite wellness interventions work? Who is paying my worksite wellness? I want a freelancer worksite wellness intervention. Now! (Gulp, crunch, slurp):
In sum, comprehensive worksite wellness interventions appear effective at improving diet and diet-related risk factors.
No more ads for unhealthy foods (= less advertisement money for the media, less money for free journalists, only if at the same time a culture tax is introduced, and everybody who writes and sings gets an income just for breathing in and out)
Based on broad observations, it is evident that marketing influences food choices in both children and adults. Quality standards or restrictions on such marketing present a promising strategy for improving population choices;
And what about laws to restrict unhealthy ingredients such as industrial trans-fats? Well I need to read more. Gulp, crunch, slurp.
Photo credit: photocase.de / johny schorle