ASIANS URGED TO EAT HEALTHILY AMID DISEASE CONCERNS

by LAUREN CODLING

 

A GOVERNMENT crackdown on junk food could help lower the risks of heart disease and diabetes among South Asians, according to experts.

Supermarkets, takeaways and restaurants are being told to shrink thou- sands of their products to cut down on calorie content. Junk food such as burgers, crisps and ready meals are being targeted by health officials in a strategy to fight obesity.

Recommendations have yet to be drawn up, but they are most likely to be modelled on existing industry targets to cut sugar by 20 per cent by 2020.

Victoria HM Taylor, a nutrition lead with the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said statistics show people from a south Asian background in the UK are at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), which could lead to a heart attack, or for the over 65s, a stroke. Eating a healthy diet is, therefore, very important.

Victoria HM Taylor

“That means eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grain and high fibre starchy carbohydrates, fish, beans and pulses, low-fat dairy and swapping saturated fats like butter and ghee for unsaturated fats like rapeseed and sun- flower oil.

“Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity a week but if that seems like a lot, don’t worry. You can break it down into ten-minute sessions throughout the day and build up from there,” Taylor told Eastern Eye.

She advised against eating a large amount of junk food as she reiterated that type 2 diabetes prevalence is higher for people of south Asian origin than for the rest of the UK population.

“A treat every now and then is fine – no one is perfect – but a regular intake of foods high in calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar can have long term implications for your risk of heart and circulatory disease as this is linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and type 2 diabetes,” she explained.

Renowned cardiologist Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said there is about a 50 per cent higher risk of heart disease in south Asians than in white people.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani

“It is to do with a range of factors,” Prof Samani told Eastern Eye, “which includes a poor diet and processed foods as well as less physical activity. This obviously increases the chance of becoming diabetic or obese.”

The introduction of junk food restrictions is supported by Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England (PHE), who said that families needed help “to do the right thing”.

“We get food pushed at us from every direction now,” she said.

“The foods have got bigger and bigger and we all know how tempting it is to finish that pizza, whatever size it is, or to eat a whole bag of crisps, even when it’s enough for two people.”

She said the plans were required to tackle the increasing issue of obesity.

“This is a big deal,” she said. “We are the first country in the world to embark on a plan like this and we were the first in the world to introduce sugar targets.”

Two thirds of adults in the UK are overweight or obese, as are one third of children by the time they leave primary school.