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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine (WIPM)

Proposed strategy to address obesity and meet UK fat intake reduction target

A paper led by Wolfson researchers has proposed a strategy for a 20% reduction in saturated fats in manufactured and out of home foods in the UK. The study examined the fat and energy contribution from 46 food categories and calculated that in five years this strategy would lead to a reduction in bodyweight for the average UK person of 2.7kg, which could correspond to 4.5 million fewer cases of overweight and obesity. Over 20 years, the 20% reduction in saturated fats in these foods across the entire UK adult population could prevent around 200,000 incident cases of type 2 diabetes, and lower LDL cholesterol sufficiently to prevent 97,000 ischaemic heart disease and stroke deaths.

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Fat (including saturated fat) is energy dense, providing double the calories of protein and carbohydrates, and manufactured and out-of-home foods are often high in fat and calories. The proposed strategy would reduce obesity and overweight (which affect two thirds of UK adults), and bring the intake of saturated fat into line with the recent UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommendations. The Committee recommends that population saturated fat intake should be lowered to around 10% of total energy consumption (a figure also proposed by WHO), and that the government should consider population strategies to reduce saturated fat intake.

Lead author Roberta Alessandrini said: “This is an effective, feasible and acceptable strategy to meet the government’s task of improving population health and combatting obesity. Our strategy could be used in combination with an energy or fat density tax, focusing on the retail and the out-of-home sector, as evidence shows that these measures can ensure greater compliance and create a level playing field for the industry.”

Roberta Alessandrini, Feng J He, Yuan Ma, Vincenzo Scrutinio, David S Wald, Graham MacGregor. Potential impact of gradual reduction of fat content in manufactured and out-of-home food on obesity in the UK: A modeling study.  Am J Clin Nutr 2021.