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Food and Health

Below is a selection of activities our members have been involved in.

Are you working on a related project? Does your research cover the theme of food and health? Get involved and join our research network today.

The urban food environment in low-income and middle-income countries

A new article on the influence of the urban food environment on diet, nutrition and health outcomes in low-income and middle-income countries, by Oyinlola Oyebode, a member of the Warwick Obesity Network, and her team, was published in the BMJ Global Health. The study argues that 'zoning’ or ‘healthy food cart’ interventions to alter food availability are appropriate in urban LMIC. This conclusion is based on a systematic review of 9 databases from 2000 to 2020 without language restrictions, resulting in 74 eligible studies, which found consistent evidence that availability characteristics in the neighbourhood food environment affects dietary behaviour, and likely health or nutrition outcomes as well. Availability was also important in the school food environment, but it was not possible to examine the workplace and home food environments, due to a substantial evidence gap on this topic in low- and middle-income countries.

Warwick Obesity Network: achievements and future plans

Thijs van Rens presents the research and future plans of the Warwick Obesity Network at the University's symposium on Sustainable Coventry and Warwickshire. The slides are available here and a recording of the presentation should be coming soon.

How effective is intermittent fasting really?

Intermittent fasting is a trendy way to try and become healthier. In this podcast, Alice Coffey and Petra Hanson discuss whether intermittent fasting actually works, and whether it has a role in weight loss and diabetes management. Alice is a PhD student in Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick. Petra Hanson is a clinical research fellow at the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust in the UK. Together they wrote a literature review on the effects of intermittent fasting on weight loss, metabolic health and insulin resistance.

Find out more about the podcast or listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

COVID-19 outcomes in minority ethnic groups: do obesity and metabolic risk play a role?

Paul Coleman, Thomas M. Barber, Thijs van Rens, Petra Hanson, Alice Coffey, and Oyinlola Oyebode, all members of the Warwick Obesity Network, discuss differences in Covid-19 outcomes across ethnic groups, and whether these may be explained in part by differences in metabolic risk due to obesity and overweight. Read the full paper, which is published in Current Obesity Reports.

fizzy drinks and football

Time to substitute sports sponsors for healthier alternatives

Footballer and captain of the Portugal Euro 2020 team, Cristiano Ronaldo, went viral for removing Coca-Cola bottles from view during a pre-match press conference, and seemingly encouraging viewers to drink water instead. Sport has long been sponsored by unhealthy products, but maybe it’s time to give them the red card, suggests Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, expert in public health from Warwick Medical School and a member of the Warwick Obesity Network. Read more here or follow the debate on Twitter.

The new restrictions on junk food marketing have been branded as draconian by the advertising industry.

UK government's announcement of pre-9pm ban on junk food adverts

Dr Petra Hanson of the Warwick Obesity Network comments on the announced of a ban on advertising HFSS foods on TV and online. “I remain very concerned about children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertisements,” she said. “Children have continued to be exposed to unhealthy adverts. Young adults will continue to be exposed to unhealthy food advertisements after 9pm, and we know that eating habits developed in early life often persist into adulthood.” writes the Guardian.

Probiotics and Weight Loss: How Probiotics Can Help You Lose Belly Fat

Is the microbiome another organ? Maybe we should treat it as such

Dr Petra Hanson and Dr Thomas M. Barber, of the Warwick Obesity Network, discuss the microbiome, the importance of fibre in our diet, and the marketing hype behind probiotics. Read the full article in Medical News Today.

Junk Food Ads Tips | Common Sense Media

Banning ads for unhealthy foods that target kids in the UK (podcast)

Dr Paul Coleman, Public Health Registrar and Honorary Research Fellow at Warwick Medical School, and a member of the Warwick Obesity Network, talks to Julia Joseph about the connections between obesity and advertisements of unhealthy fast food products, and explains why the evidence justifies a total ban of such advertising. Dr Coleman has previously provided written evidence to the UK Government consultation on such a ban.

Find out more about the podcast or listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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Building a food system that works for everyone

The food system has become increasingly wasteful, processed and environmentally damaging. In a new report by the IPPR, University of Warwick researchers and members of the Warwick Obesity Network Paul Coleman and Oyinlola Oyebode describe their recommendations on how to fix it.

Ethnicity-specific BMI cutoffs for obesity

Revisions of ethnicity-specific BMI cutoffs are needed to ensure that minority ethnic populations are provided with appropriate clinical surveillance to optimise the prevention, early diagnosis, and timely management of type 2 diabetes. New paper by Warwick Obesity Network member Tom Barber published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

7 Principles to Mindful Eating (podcast)

Dr Petra Hanson, clinical research fellow at the University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire and a member of the Warwick Obesity Network, discusses how mindfulness practice can improve not just weight management but our mental well-being with diabetes, shifting from a lack of self-compassion to an increase of self-love, and making overall healthier food choices. Find out more about the podcast or listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast "The economics of diet and health"

Dr Thijs van Rens discusses how people’s diets are affected by their income levels and the area they live in. Is the obesity epidemic due to people’s choices and preferences, or is it caused by factors in the external environment such as the price and availability of food? To what extent should policymakers intervene?

Dr Thijs Van Rens is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick. Find out more about his research.

Junk free TV

Evidence review: Restrictions on Food Advertising and Obesity

The Warwick Obesity Network contributed to the government consultation on the total restriction of online advertising for products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). Petra Hanson and Paul Coleman conducted a rapid review of medical research on the links between advertising and childhood obesity. They found that the relationship between childhood obesity and exposure to food advertising meets all criteria commonly used to demonstrate the presence of a causal relationship in epidemiology. Children from socio-economically disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to this kind of advertising. Further restrictions on HFSS advertising, already widely supported by the general public and health care professionals, are fully justified by the scientific evidence.

Read the evidence review here.

Healthy food in Birmingham

A Healthier and Fairer Food System in Birmingham

Residents in the West Midlands could enjoy healthier and more affordable food in the future thanks to a new research project, with the participation of Thijs van Rens, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics and co-lead of the Food GRP. The Mandala Consortium has been awarded a five-year grant by the UK Government for a research project which could transform the local urban food system and its relationship with the wider regional economy, focusing on the city of Birmingham as a pilot project.

UKRI ESRC logo

Warwick Obesity Network launches

An interdisciplinary group of academics and clinicians at the University of Warwick, brought together under the Food and Health theme of the Global Research Priority on Food, was awarded an ESRC IAA Internal Network Grant to provide evidence-based support for obesity interventions in times of Covid-19. The network is led by Thijs van Rens (Economics) and its members include Lena Alkhudairy, Lola Oyebode and Paul Coleman (Warwick Medical School), Thomas M. Barber and Petra Hanson (UHCW Obesity Service), Lukasz Walasek (Psychology), and Redzo Mujcic (Warwick Business School).

Obesity and the Food Environment

Our upcoming theme workshop will explore the role of the food environment in poor dietary behaviour and obesity. Worldwide, the prevalence of obesity has doubled since the 80's. Currently nearly a third of the world's population and two thirds of adults in the UK are either overweight or obese. The NHS spends £5.8 billion per year on diseases associated with poor diet.

The workshop with consider causes and consequences of the food environment, as well as possible interventions.

Birmingham Healthy Food City

Birmingham City Council kicked off a year of food conversations in the city with the launch of the National Food Conversation on 23 October 2019.

Warwick scientists were involved in the academic round table to discuss the challenges and opportunities to influence and shape the food environment and to understand the barriers to providing healthy and affordable food for all citizens.

2BHEALTHY in Greener Britain

Scientists here at Warwick have been working to develop new varieties of haricot beans, a great source of fibre, protein and iron, in the UK. These new types of bean can thrive in our climate. We are helping shape the future of healthy eating in Britain.

Find out how close we are to a British baked bean.

Obesity Treatment

The number of overweight and obese children has increased globally, and can be associated with short and long term health consequences. A Cochrane systematic review by researchers from Warwick Medical School and other institutions assesses the effects of diet, physical activity and behavioural intentions for the treatment of overweight or obesity in children up to six years. The authors conclude that multicomponent interventions appear to be an effective treatment option and that dietary interventions focusing on dairy intake may be effective in the longer term, but not energy-restricted diets.

Childhood Obesity Policy

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee published a report on their inquiry into childhood obesity, Childhood Obesity: Time for Action. The report recommends a range of national government interventions to fight obesity.

The report's section on fiscal measures relies heavily on input from Warwick economist and Food GRP co-lead Dr Thijs van Rens.

Soft Drink Levy

A Warwick political scientist and a Warwick economist have argued that the tax on sugary drinks makes good political and economic sense.

Find out why the case against the soft drink levy appears to be sugar coated.