BMI and calories on menus should be SCRAPPED as obesity crackdown branded dangerous, say MPs

BMI and calories on menus should be SCRAPPED as obesity crackdown branded dangerous, say MPs

April 9, 2021

USING BMI (Body Mass Index) and displaying the calorie count on menus should be scrapped as MPs brand the measures “dangerous”.

Experts have claimed the the government’s strategy to tackle obesity in the UK could trigger eating disorders in the people it’s designed to help.

Doctors and health professionals use BMI to calculate where a person falls in a weight range and this can determine whether you are underweight, overweight or obese.

A normal BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9, anything under 18.5 sets alarm bells ringing when it comes to eating disorders.

BMI uses your height, weight and sex to give you a score.

Earlier this week it was reported that many people with eating disorders are not receiving the help they need because they “don’t have a low enough BMI”.

Dr Agnes Ayton, chair of the Faculty of Eating Disorders Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "People with eating disorders should not be denied help based on their BMI.

"This could put them in a life-threatening position to reduce more weight in order to meet the threshold to access services.

"We urgently need resources and more funding for research if we're to deal with the hidden epidemic of eating disorders this pandemic has brought on."


Now the Women and Equalities Committee has warned the impact of the pandemic, both on eating disorder sufferers and those at a high risk of developing one, has been "devastating".

Their report warns that BMI contributes to issues such as eating disorders and poor mental health.

The report stated: "We have been hugely saddened to hear of the number of people who have faced appearance and weight-based discrimination when accessing NHS services.

"The use of BMI inspires weight stigma, contributes to eating disorders, and disrupts people's body image and mental health."

It recommended that Public Health England (PHE) stops using BMI as a measure of individual health and instead focuses on a "Health at Every Size" approach.

This, they say, will help honour different factors such as age, gender and ethnicity.

It will also take into consideration healthy lifestyle choices over correcting weight.

The committee said that the obesity strategy was "at best ineffective and at worst perpetuating unhealthy behaviours".

It has now called for the Government to commission an independent review into the evidence base for its policies.

While ditching the BMI was one of the top priorities, the report also urged the Government to immediately scrap plans for calorie labels on food in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, amid concerns it will contribute to growth in eating disorders and disordered eating.

Adverts that use altered images should also be banned, according to the report, which states that it contributes to poor body image.

Chair Caroline Nokes said that over the last 10 years research has been published as to how the government can tackle negative image but that government action in the area was limited.

She said: "The pressure will intensify as gyms and beauty salons reopen on Monday.

"This may be exciting for some but it will be difficult for people who experience body image anxieties. It's critical that Government action works towards improving body image."

Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at the eating disorders charity Beat said that the pandemic has been difficult for people with eating disorders and that the helpline had seen a 302 per cent increase in demand.

He said: "We welcome the committee's call for an urgent review into eating disorder rates, and to ensure that there is sufficient support available for those affected.

"BMI should never be used as the sole factor in diagnosing eating disorders, or for determining who is 'unwell enough' to access treatment.

"This can lead to potentially dangerous delays, and can drive people deeper into eating disorders in order to be taken seriously.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said its approach is "guided by the latest research and emerging evidence".

In a statement the department said: "We know poor body image can be a factor in disordered eating for both men and women and we are committed to improving outcomes for those with eating disorders and related mental health issues – with record funding to expand dedicated services in the community.

"Early intervention services are being launched for young people with eating disorders which could see them begin treatment within two weeks.

"With over six in 10 adults overweight or living with obesity it is important that we take action to help people live healthier lives. NHS England has been clear it does not support the use of BMI thresholds."

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