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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Daniel Keane

Calories on menus in pubs and restaurants will save 9,000 lives, says study

More than 9,000 heart disease-related deaths could be prevented in England over the next two decades if restaurants and pubs put calories on the menus, according to a study.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool said that extending the measures to all fast food outlets, cafes, pubs and takeaways would help reduce rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Under Government policy introduced in April 2022, only large food businesses with 250 or more employees have to display calories on their menus. Ministers said the move would help diners to make healthier choices and combat the nation’s growing obesity problem.

For the study, academics looked at how the current policy would influence obesity and cardiovascular disease.

They estimated that the current policy would reduce obesity prevalence in England by 0.31 percentage points in the next 20 years, whereas a full implementation of the policy – across all food businesses – would reduce this by 2.65 percentage points.

Without any menu calorie labelling policy, an estimated 830,000 deaths associated with cardiovascular disease would occur by 2041, according to the study.

Modelling suggests that under the current policy around 730 deaths can be prevented over the next 20 years, and if it was extended to all food businesses in England, then about 9,200 deaths could be prevented – almost 13 times more.

The results “emphasise the need for the Government to consider extending this policy to all food businesses to maximise public health benefits as part of a broader England obesity strategy”, the authors wrote.

Martin O’Flaherty, professor in epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, said: “Over one in four adults in England are currently living with obesity, with trends suggesting this is set to increase.

“Our research estimates that the current calorie labelling legislation will prevent hundreds of deaths from cardiovascular disease over the next 20 years; however, a much larger impact is possible if the Government were more ambitious in their aims to tackle the obesity epidemic in England and extended the policy to all out-of-home food businesses.”

Dr Zoe Colombet, lecturer in epidemiology and public health at the University of Liverpool, said: “Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which also could lead to cardiovascular disease.

“Hence, reducing obesity will result in a reduction of cardiovascular disease, and, in the longer term, other diseases related to obesity such as some types of cancer and joint diseases.”

She added: ““Our results suggest expanding calorie labelling on menus to all English out-of-home food businesses could play an important part in future government strategies to support people in making healthier choices to tackle obesity.

“However, one policy alone cannot solve England’s obesity crisis.

“We encourage the Government to continue with, and strengthen, the England obesity strategy with a wide range of policies, such as calorie labelling, tackling junk food marketing, and the soft drinks industry levy, which will both reduce obesity and narrow the shocking health inequalities gap in our society.”

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