Opinion

Paul McNamee: We can’t have our cake and eat it

There's a national obsession with a TV baking show, and we encourage kids to hunt chocolate eggs. Yet we scratch our heads about an obesity epidemic...

Type 2 diabetes is not a disease.

It is a ‘walking deficiency’ syndrome – so claims Sir Muir Gray, a leading medical researcher.

Gray decided to rattle cages last week by insisting it was a result of modern environments. Essentially, we’re gorging on bad food and lying on the sofa moaning about the plot of Broadchurch. Gray’s a big fan of switching off the TV.

On the face of it, this looks like an academic trotting out a neat soundbite to help sell his book. But there is much to what he says.

It costs an estimated £10bn a year to treat type 2 diabetes in Britain. And it’s not going to decrease. Globally the numbers of people with diabetes have nearly quadrupled since 1980. Figures suggest this is made up of around 85 per cent with type 2.

In Britain, we have a bizarre relationship with food

None of this can come as any surprise, really. In Britain, we have a bizarre relationship with food. The confected, baloney furore over the National Trust losing the word Easter from their egg hunt glossed over a key point. There is a national drive to get kids out hunting chocolate and eating as much processed sugar as they can cram in. The case for the dangers of far too much processed sugar is already
well established.

And we continue to have a national obsession with a TV show that encourages people to bake loads and loads of cakes, laced full of butter and sugar.

All this is around us and still there is headscratching about an obesity epidemic.

Every now and then come noises from Government trying to encourage people to cook food from scratch. It’s healthier and cheaper and a proper alternative to processed meals.

Find your local vendor

Find your Vendor

But there are problems with that. Some time ago we ran an investigation going into some of Britain’s poorest areas, heading to the local shops and trying to find fresh vegetables and fruit. There was very little. And what was there was expensive. So people living in those areas couldn’t just nip out, grab something to cook and throw together a simple, nutritious meal.

Ready meals become a clear alternative.

There are two things that could help get on top of the type 2 diabetes epidemic. The first lies with us. We need to take more personal responsibility. Take small steps to get healthier. We can’t moan that the NHS is overloaded when a significant part of that is easily preventable. Less bad food, more movement.

The second is at a higher level. Give fresh food away. How much would it cost to subsidise farmers and food growers to provide some percentage of their crops for free in areas that have high levels of poverty or obesity? How much would a programme of free basic cookery lessons cost? Significantly less than £10bn a year. I realise this is teetering close to a communist collective, and that didn’t end well.

But we need radical alternatives. Otherwise we’re going to munch ourselves to bursting point. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
What is the meaning of home? It's complicated...
A rendering of what a converted flat could look like in the year 2049
Sonia Solicari

What is the meaning of home? It's complicated...

Brits are the happiest they've been in a year. Here's why
Paul McNamee

Brits are the happiest they've been in a year. Here's why

Our health system is failing both men and women – but it's gender equity we need, not equality
Dr Zac Seidler

Our health system is failing both men and women – but it's gender equity we need, not equality

One in four children start school still wearing nappies – but it's not the parents' fault
One in four children are starting school still wearing nappies, research has found
Juliette Rayner

One in four children start school still wearing nappies – but it's not the parents' fault

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know