One in four deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD ) or stroke could be prevented each year, according to new evidence from the Health Research Board Centre for Diet and Health. Such an outcome requires everyone in Ireland to cut their salt, trans fat and saturated fat intake, and eat three more portions of fruit and veg per day.
UCC’s professor of epidemiology and public health, Ivan Perry, who is head of the HRB Centre for Diet and Health says: “There are significant opportunities for government and industry to address this mortality by introducing effective, evidence based, food policies such as making fruit and vegetables more affordable and working with the food industry to reduce salt in processed foods.”
In 2011, dietary fat constituted 37 per cent of the food energy intake for 18-to-64 year-olds in Ireland, with 63 per cent of the population exceeding the recommended upper limit of 35 per cent food energy from fat. According to Prof Perry, “Such gaps in current food policy choices and the achievable dietary standards indicate the need for a paradigm shift in the current public health food policy interventions. We took leadership in the tobacco control with a comprehensive nationwide smoke free policy in 2004. Similar leadership is critical for legislating dietary food policies both at national and EU level.”
In Ireland alone CHD deaths fell by 50 per cent between 1985 and 2006 as a result of population health measures in relation to smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol combined with improvements in treatment. “Our study provides valuable evidence on the impact of population level changes in dietary intake. Achieving a modest improvement could save 395 lives each year. Doing nothing or simply monitoring the situation could result in dire public health consequences for the Irish population, both in the short and the long term,” concluded Prof Perry.