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Diet and nutrition are major determinants of population health

Diet and nutrition are major determinants of population health. Dietary behaviours and nutrition are associated with four of the top-five burdens of disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and low fruit and vegetable consumption. Across Europe and beyond, majorities of populations do not comply to recommendations regarding, for example, intakes of energy, saturated fat, sodium and fruits and vegetables. Public health interventions have been, are and should be designed and put into effect to promote that more people engage in healthful eating habits.

With the excessive in quantity range of food items on offer, people in market-economy countries can, to a large extent, choose what, when and how much they eat. To succeed in persuading dietary change, one needs to change people’s food choices. To be able to do that, insight in to why people choose to eat what they eat is necessary. Studies on determinants of eating behaviors have been focusing on individual level factors, such as taste preferences, nutrition knowledge, attitudes and intentions and insight in to such motivational determinants have informed health education interventions to promote more healthful eating habits, including nutrition advice and counselling by GPs.

Such nutrition education approaches attempt to urge people to intentionally adopt healthier eating habits by providing information about unhealthful eating and more healthful alternatives. However, such nutrition education interventions have had limited. More recently, it has been argued that the environment we live in may be the driving force behind many of our less healthful eating habits as well as lack of physical activity.

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It is important for the older generation to promote healthy diet to the younger generation as it is becoming increasingly popular of obesity in children and young adults. More than 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese when they begin school and then it increases to almost 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school (according to the Government Public Health England in 2015). According to NHS Wales, child obesity rates are higher in Wales than in England where a report published on 31 July 2014 shows that over a quarter of five-year olds in Wales have an unhealthy body mass index compared to just over a fifth of five year in olds in England.

Short-term effects of an unhealthy diet

There are several short-term effects of an unhealthy diet. Firstly, having an unhealthy diet can cause Heartburn and Indigestion which both problems can often be traced back to foods laced with grease and fat. For example, French fries, pizza, hamburgers and various fried foods. Having an unhealthy diet may result int a disrupted sleeping pattern as overnight heartburn could wake you up, overnight heart burn can be frequently blamed on greasy and/or fatty meals eaten just before bedtime. A lack of sleep can result in finding it more difficult in maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle. Leading on to exercise, with an unhealthy diet it results in the inability to exercise as it can be quite a challenge to start exercising regularly. It is researched that there is an adverse effect on memory when there has been an unhealthy diet involved meaning that day to day life gets more difficult when forgetting things. A lack of energy is one of the short-term effects of unhealthy diet as if you do have an unhealthy diet you will battle with fatigue throughout the day which makes it ten times harder. If you are consuming too much sugar, that type of energy shortage could be a regular problem. Because of this amount of sugar, the body is forced to rapidly convert this incoming sugar into energy. Unfortunately, these sugar-fueled boosts are usually temporary, as this energy is quickly exhausted by the body’s metabolism. This ushers in feelings of lethargy and sluggishness, the phrase “sugar crash”. A “sugar crash” can also interfere with concentration.

Long-term effects of an unhealthy diet

There are also several long-term effects of an unhealthy diet. Firstly, there is a chance of having Osteoporosis where it refers to brittle bones that run a high risk of breaking. According to Purdue University, osteoporosis appears primarily in elderly adults, often because of a lifetime of poor nutrition. As young adults, as young as early 20s in the case of women, calcium begins to gradually use the supply from your bones. If you don’t consume enough calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C or if your body weight remains dangerously low for extended periods of time, the risk of osteoporosis increases dramatically. Another health problem there is at risk of getting if there is an unhealthy diet involved is Hypertension, or high blood pressure, which occurs when your arteries become congested with plague, which accumulates over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, being overweight or obese, consuming too much sodium or too little potassium or vitamin D, and excessive consumption of alcohol are significant risk factors for hypertension. A major disease that someone could have with an unhealthy diet is Cardiovascular Disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy diet is one of the most effective tools you have toward fighting heart disease. Foods such as saturated fats (found in fatty meats, cheese, butter and eggs) and trans fats (found in shortening, margarine, deep-fried foods and processed snack foods)

Local issues

In Ceredigion, there is an organization called FIS which stands for Family Information Service Ceredigion which try and promote different health perspective. Health challenge Wales is running a campaign to promote healthier lifestyles and has food and physical activity as one of its key themes.


There is a strong link between good-quality sleep and good health. No-one chooses to sleep poorly. There are healthy habits and behaviours that will help individuals get better sleep, but these day-to-day behaviours are influenced by big-picture, systems-level factors far more than the day-to-day choices. For example, making the bedroom sleep friendly is a useful step to good sleep; it’s important that the bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable. However, if the individual is poor and must share their sleep area with many family members, or they can only afford to live in a neighbourhood that is violent and noisy after dark, it will be harder to implement this very helpful strategy. Similarly, getting regular physical activity will help the individual fall into sleep more easily and more deeply. However, this can be harder if their neighbourhood’s sidewalks are not well-maintained, or it is not safe to go out later at night for a walk.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation occurs when an individual gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert. People vary in how little sleep is needed to be considered sleep-deprived. Some people such as older adults are more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, while others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable. Although occasional sleep interruptions are no more than a nuisance, ongoing lack of sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity and a lowered perception of quality of life.

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation

There are several short-term effects of sleep deprivation. Firstly, being sleep deprived gives a chance of being forgetfulness, when someone is sleep deprived the memory formation is impaired and the person struggles to recall facts and information. Sleep is crucial to your brain’s ability to remember, retain and recall information. Sleep deprivation can multiply your distraction throughout the day as it can reduce the ability to focus and increase your likelihood of being distracted. An example of the seriousness of distraction in the day to day life is being distracted while behind the wheel; up to 30% of road accidents are attributed to drowsy driving which is a significant number. Through sleep deprivation, performance is impaired in all aspects of day to day life. Because of impaired performance, reaction times are slowed and can be impacted just as if your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) 0.05. It can also impact your decision- making abilities and decrease your tolerance for others- especially when driving. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just affect the person. When they are craving the sleep they’re not getting their moods can change, leaving them feeling annoyed and easily irritated. This extends to those around them, too, affecting relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found through an experiment that subjects limited to four-and-a-half hours of sleep per night for a week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally drained than usual.

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation

There are also several long-term effects of sleep deprivation. Firstly, there is a possible link between long-term sleep deprivation and higher blood pressure. The more hours of good quality sleep you get, the more reduced your chances of developing (or worsening existing) high blood pressure. Sleep is an important part of our life that allows the body to regulate stress hormones, so if they’re getting less than six hours’ sleep, or getting poor quality sleep during these hours, they’re potentially stifling their body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, which as a result can raise their blood pressure. A lack of sleep can increase their heart rate, raise their blood pressure, and overall, put a greater strain on their heart. This can lead to heart attack or stroke. The onset of depression can lead to troubled sleep, including insomnia. In fact, disturbed sleep is often cited as a symptom of depression. The more sleep deprived they are, the higher the levels of stress hormone, cortisol, in their body. They may be feeling more agitated, frustrated and stressed, and they may find that their appetite has increased. When sleep deprivation becomes habitual, changes in their metabolism leaves them with (often unhealthy) food cravings, and when they indulge, they notice the number on the scales gradually rising. Ghrelin is a hormone produced in the stomach and it’s been found that sleep deprivation affects its production. When too much ghrelin is produced, it leaves them feeling hungry – ravenous, in fact – leading them to eat more, and with that sluggish feeling that they didn’t get enough sleep, they’re also less likely to exercise. The natural result of eating more and exercising less is, of course, weight gain. Frightening psychiatric outcomes of long-term sleep deprivation includes paranoia and disorientation. As such, sleep deprivation can lead to symptoms of schizophrenia. Those who suffer from paranoia are described as having lost touch with reality, with feelings of jealousy, conspiracy, threat, mistrust, and fear. Hallucinations is also a long-term effect where the lines between dreaming and reality are significantly blurred or disoriented. The above health conditions – obesity, heart attacks, and so on – as well as the danger of a drowsiness-related accident in a vehicle can all lead to premature death. Sleep deprivation itself may not be a common cause of death, however the contribution it makes to overall health problems can lead to death.

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Diet and nutrition are major determinants of population health. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

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