Everyone should be encouraged to be more physically active, spend less time in front of the television, and reduce their consumption of energy dense foods, takeaways, and sugar sweetened drinks, the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said in draft guidance.
The advice also encourages the public to follow a “Mediterranean diet” that is based on high proportions of vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, wholegrains, and fish and that uses olive oil instead of other fats. It aims to help children and adults maintain a healthy weight or prevent further weight gain.
Mike Kelly, director of NICE’s Centre for Public Health, said, “Obesity rates have nearly doubled over the last 10 years and continue to be a huge concern for local authorities and the health service in England. NICE has already published a range of guidelines to help prevent and manage obesity, but this draft update focuses on the changes individuals can make that might help them reduce their risk of overweight and obesity. Following a healthier diet and being more physically active is important for everyone, not just if you are already overweight or obese.
“The general rule for maintaining a healthy weight is that energy intake through food and drink should not exceed energy output from daily activity. We all know we should probably take the stairs rather than the lift, cut down on TV time, eat more healthily, and drink less alcohol. But it can be difficult to know the most useful changes that we can make in terms of our weight.”
Adults and children should walk or cycle to school, work, or other local destinations and be more active during leisure time, the guidance says. They should also consider having TV free days or watching a screen during leisure time for no more than two hours a day.
In terms of diet NICE advises people to replace energy dense foods, such as fried foods, biscuits, confectionery, and full fat cheese, with lighter foods such as fruit and vegetables. Sugar sweetened drinks should be avoided and fast or takeaway foods eaten only occasionally.
Adults should limit their alcohol intake and be made aware that all alcoholic drinks are a source of additional energy. For example, a man drinking the upper weekly limit of 21 units will be consuming around 1400 to 1800 extra kilocalories (5900 to 7500 extra kJ) a week.
The guidance also includes recommendations aimed at tackling misconceptions about behaviours that may influence weight and gives some examples of simple and easy ways people can monitor their weight. For example, it recommends that people use one of the numerous apps available to track food intake or physical activity and to weigh themselves regularly.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2014) Maintaining a Healthy Weight and Preventing Excess Weight Gain among Children and Adults. Available from World Wide Web: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/GID-PHG78. [Accessed: 27 September, 2014].