Nutrition

Good health requires a good diet, and diseases of under-nutrition and over-nutrition (e.g. heart disease and diabetes) are some of the major challenges in modern medicine.

By Prof. Charles Spence

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'People are assaulted by food at every turn, and we’re biologically programmed to eat in case there might be a famine round the corner,' explains Professor Susan Jebb as the West struggles with plenty. 

Professor Susan Jebb studies behavioural medicine at Oxford, and her work is becoming more important by the year as the West battles obesity, diabetes and a multitude of other weight-related illnesses. She focuses on why we eat too much, why fad diets are counterproductive, and how to get the public losing weight efficiently. Here, she talks through strategies to tackle our collective weight problem.

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A study into the greenhouse gas emissions caused by different types of diet has for the first time provided quantitative evidence that going meat-free can dramatically reduce environmental impact. The paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, analysed data from the diets of 65,000 meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans, and found the greenhouse gas emissions for a meat-based diet were approximately twice as high as those for vegans, and about 50 per cent higher than for vegetarians.

One of the authors of the paper, Dr Peter Scarborough, spoke to the Oxford Martin School's Communications Officer, Sally Stewart, about the research and its implications.

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By Kremlin Wickramasinghe, University of Oxford

The School Food Plan for England released last week is supposed to be the blueprint that improves lunches in schools across the country. The important role of head teachers, a funding commitment from the government to support schools, and the requirement for all schools and academies to follow these guidelines are real highlights.

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Article published by Nature (Nature 531, 551 (31 March 2016) doi:10.1038/531551a) written by Dr Adam Briggs

 

Health campaigners and political observers got a surprise in the United Kingdom's latest budget. This month, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced a sugar tax in the form of a levy on sugary-drinks manufacturers.

This is a bold and welcome move from a Conservative government that has often been criticized for not standing up to industry. It demonstrates that officials and policymakers have heeded advice and now recognize that sugar is a public-health problem that needs legislative control. The tax has potential implications not just for public health and the global soft-drinks industry, but also for the ability of all governments to act on market failures in food.

Britain will not be the first place to introduce a sugar-drink tax. Mexico, France, Hungary and Finland, among others, have taxed sugary drinks; South Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia and India are considering doing so. Hungary and Finland have also taxed some unhealthy foods.

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By Kremlin Wickramasinghe

This week, the British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Prevention in the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford was officially designated as the WHO Collaborating Centre on Population Approaches for NCD Prevention.

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By Professor Mike Hamm, C. S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture at Michigan State University (MSU) & visiting fellow of Mansfield College, University of Oxford.

Mike was one of the two experts on sustainability consulted by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in developing its 2015 report.  This report’s  publication has attracted widespread interest and - from those ideologically opposed either to actions on sustainability that necessitate a change in habits or to government intervention - a great deal of criticism. In this blog Mike shares his thoughts on the new Guidelines, and explains clearly what they actually say.

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By Hannah Rowlands

Last week, the Oxford Martin School hosted a seminar about the health and environmental imapct of our diets, as part of their seminar series "Health in the 21st century: what’s new?".

You can watch the seminar again on their website, but here are some notes that summarise the main arguments made by the three speakers.

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This blog post is taken from Research in Conversation, a series of interviews with researchers across Oxford University. Each interviewee raises a question arising from their research, which the next interview follows up on, approaching from a different discipline. Together, these linked interviews form 'chains' that collectively, and from many different perspectives, ask big questions like what it is to be human, how to live a healthy life and our changing relationship with information.

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By Kyle Turner, University of Oxford and Boyd Swinburn, Deakin University

The most comprehensive global study ever undertaken for obesity was just released and the need for serious population-wide action is no longer up for debate. The study’s key findings make for grim reading – not a single country saw a decline in obesity over the past 30 years.

Instead, between 1980 and 2013, the prevalence of global overweight and obesity increased by 27.5% among adults. What is even more worrying still is that overweight and obesity in children soared by nearly a half (47.1%) in just three decades.

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