GPs blame celebrity diets for bulging Brits

Article date: 5 July 2005

85% of GPs rate their patients’ currenteating habits as unhealthy, according to a new report outtoday.

And it’s not just over eating, ignoranceand lack of exercise contributing to Britons’ poor diets.Norwich Union Healthcare’s ‘Nutritional Health’report found that more than eight in 10 (85%) GPs are pointing thefinger of blame at fad diets popularised by celebrities, claimingthey put the nation’s health at risk by misleading the publicabout what’s healthy and what’s not.

Dr Ann Robinson, GP, comments: "Celebrities arenot nutritionists. Many are actually under weight andunder-nourished. Celebrities, who have a vested interest in lookingtoday’s version of ‘perfect’, are often taken inthemselves by the latest diet crazes and seem to reinvent theireating regimes as often and as easily as they reinvent their ownimage. While such extremes might be ok for those whose livelihoodsdepend on it, it doesn’t make for a sensible or sustainablehealthy living plan for the rest of us.

"Healthy eating is not about drasticallyreducing your calorie intake in order to lose weight but is abouteating a variety of the right kinds of foods in the rightamounts."

Norwich Union Healthcare’s report alsofound that although 80% of GPs think programmes such as ‘YouAre What You Eat’ and Jamie Oliver’s ‘SchoolDinners’ have done a good job highlighting the dangers of apoor diet, there is still a big job to do to reverse the harm doneover the last two decades as two thirds believe the nation’shealth has deteriorated in the past twenty years.

As well as celebrity diets, GPs blame thegeneral amount of information available for adding to thepublic’s confusion with more than nine in 10(92%) of themsaying so.

And despite the fact that nearly eight in 10Britons (79%) agree ‘you are what you eat’, 51% ofthose questioned admit they are unsure about what they should andshouldn’t be eating.

Recent news topics have stated for example:

  • Salad is a healthy option for many Brits but recent findingssuggested that bagged salad available in supermarkets could havebeen washed in chlorine
  • A daily glass of red wine can promote good health but at thesame time alcohol has negative overall effects
  • Red meat is a rich source of iron and protein but recentreports have shown that eating more than two helpings a day canincrease the risk of bowel cancer

Dr Doug Wright from Norwich Union Healthcaresaid: "It is clear that Britons are confused by the conflictinginformation they receive about their food and diet on a dailybasis. Three quarters of the GPs we spoke to thought their patientswould benefit from seeking guidance about their diet from anutritionist or dietician, so if you’re unsure about what youshould and shouldn’t be eating why not consult aprofessional?"

Food intolerances can present themselves in manydifferent ways. The signs and symptoms can range from a runny noseto hives, breathing difficulties or even a life threateningreaction called anaphylaxis.

Everybody has a different way of absorbing anddigesting food and there could be specific foods that have anegative effect on you. Norwich Union Healthcare has put together alist of some common reactions to food and suggestions of what maybe behind them:

  • Bloating – could be a result of gas-producingfoods e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pulses, dried fruits orbeans
  • Indigestion – you could be eating too many acidicfoods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, alcohol or spices
  • Constipation – could be a lack of fluids andfibre. Opt for wholemeal, granary and soft grain varieties ofbread, jacket potatoes, wholegrain breakfast cereals (Weetabix,Branflakes, unsweetened muesli, Shreddies) wholemeal pasta, brownrice, beans, lentils, peas, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables,nuts and seeds
  • Diarrhoea – you’re probably eating too muchfibre, spicy foods or fruit. Excessive alcohol is another commoncontributor to loose bowels
  • Lethargy – can be down to a poorly balanced diet,excessive carbohydrates, yo-yo dieting or a lack of iron.


Media contacts:
CharlotteRuddlesdin or Jo Misson, QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Office contacts:
LornaWiltshire: 020 7662 1013 or 07800 695 150
James Evans: 01904 452 791 or 07800 699 525


Notes to editors:

  • Case studies available on request.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned a representative sampleof 1031 GB adults aged 16+ to be interviewed between the 3rd andthe 5th June 2005 by TNS. They also commissioned a representativesample of 203 GPs to be interviewed between the 3rd and the 5thJune 2005 by TNS Healthcare.

About Norwich Union Healthcare

  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products that cover over 750,000lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection andprivate medical insurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union Healthcare is authorised and regulated by theFinancial Service Authority and is a member of the Associationof British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. CallQBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424.

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