World expert on salt and sugar in Canberra for food talks

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A global expert on salt and sugar in the food supply, Prof Graham MacGregor, will be in Canberra on July 8 to discuss the nation’s approach to tackling food reformulation.

Prof MacGregor is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London and Chair of World Action on Salt and Health and also Action on Sugar, driving a public health campaign internationally to make government and the public more sugar and salt aware.

In Australia to participate in the National Chronic Disease Forum in Melbourne, Prof MacGregor will be a guest of the National Heart Foundation in Canberra.

In the UK, Pro MacGregor has worked to convincing the food industry, government and health officials to gradually reduce the amount of added sugar with no substitution in food and soft drinks by setting targets.

Action on Sugar has calculated that over a reasonable timeframe of 3-5 years, an easily achievable 20% to 30% reduction in sugar added would result in a reduction in calorie intake of approximately 100kcal/day and more in those people who are particularly prone to obesity.

This reduction in calorie intake is predicted to reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and will have a significant impact in reducing the burden of chronic disease.

The model is similar to salt reduction pioneered by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which set targets for the industry to gradually add less salt in their products. As this was done slowly, people noticed no taste difference.

“This program is practical, will work and will cost very little. It also gives an opportunity to the food and soft drinks industry to shift towards healthier options without having a significant effect on their profit margins,” Prof MacGregor said.

Trained as a nephrologist, Prof MacGregor became interested in the relationship between the kidney and high blood pressure, altering the direction of his career.

He set up the Blood Pressure Association, action groups CASH and WASH, served on the World Hypertension League Board, World Health Organisation, and was one of the founders of the British Hypertension Society.

While in Australia, Prof MacGregor will discuss the harmful relationship between unhealthy food - with high and unnecessary amounts of salt, saturated fat and sugar - and risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity.

“These are risk factors for Australia’s top ranking burdens of disease, including the number one killer heart disease, and this is preventable,” Prof MacGregor said.

“The UK has led the world in getting the food industry to slowly reduce the amount of salt and now sugar in the food supply. Australia is making a sound start, but has a long way to go.

“In the UK, food companies have reduced the salt content of their foods by 30 to 50%. Australia should be aiming to do even better.”