Being overweight is a risk factor for non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects around one in three adults at an early stage. Over time, NAFLD can sometimes progress to a more serious form of liver disease called non-alcohol related steatohepatitis (NASH) which, in turn, can lead to cirrhosis.
NAFLD is preventable and, in most cases, it can even be reversed if lifestyle changes are made at an early enough stage. The best way to avoid the condition is by eating a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and taking regular exercise.
Improving the nation’s health
The British Liver Trust has been campaigning and working with other organisations to advocate for evidence-based, population-level policy and practice to address excess weight-related ill health. We welcome the new food industry guidelines issued by Public Health England for its calorie reduction programme with new targets for salt reduction.
The programme is set to run until 2024 and the aim is to encourage the food industry to reduce the amount of calories and salt in the products it sells.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Communications and Policy at the British Liver Trusts said: “The prevalence of NASH – the type of liver disease that is usually caused by obesity – has been rising at an alarming rate. We need population-wide measures to address this to prevent an epidemic.
“The British Liver Trust welcomes these new initiatives, however, as this is a voluntary programme we need Government to monitor its uptake and be ready to legislate if companies do not comply. Now is the time for the food industry to step-up and create healthier products to improve everyone’s health and to stop the next generation becoming overweight.
"Alongside these measures we need weight management services to be made much more available through out the NHS so many more people can get the support and help they need to lose weight.”
A responsible approach is needed
Obesity is a growing problem in the UK, where nearly two thirds of adults are classed as obese or overweight. Worryingly, one in three children are already obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school.
Obesity Health Alliance said: “It’s much harder to eat healthily when so much of the food available to us is over-loaded with excess calories. To improve our nation’s health now and in the longer term, the food industry must play their role to make the food they produce healthier.
"Industry has been consulted extensively on these new targets and as such we expect them to step up and meet the targets on time and in full. But this is ultimately a voluntary programme, which is why we need the government to clearly commit to sanctions for companies that do not take the responsible approach such as fines and levies."