Magoosh GRE

The Food Industry and Diet-Related Health Problems

| March 24, 2015


This dissertation will look at the impact the food industry is able to make upon health problems which have been linked with diet. The risks of poor diet are well documented: “treating treating diseases brought on by poor diet costs the NHS £5.8bn, almost as much as it costs to treat smoking and alcohol related diseases combined” (British Heart Foundation [online] 2011) Conversely, a well-balanced and healthy diet has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and can also reduce the risk of developing associated conditions (Medline [online] 2011)
Heart disease is the single biggest cause of death in the UK, responsible for about 94,000 deaths per year. Over 2.5 million people live with Coronary heart disease, with angina the biggest symptom, affecting 2 million. The heart is a muscle which moves blood around the body through a beating action, sending blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen and then around the body. Heart disease happens when the blood supply to the heart is blocked by fatty deposits in the arteries. Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. Narrowed arteries cause chest pains, while blocked arteries cause heart attacks (NHS Choices [online] 2011). Heart disease is linked with poor diet, including diets low in fruit and vegetables, high in salt, and high in fats. Saturated fat can lead to higher cholesterol levels, which in turn is linked to higher incidences of heart disease. In addition, trans-fatty acids, found in sweets and processed foods like cake, are also linked to higher cholesterol levels (BBC [online] 2011).
Heart conditions are also linked with obesity and hypertension. Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, and this means a greater likelihood of having a heart attack, and research also suggests that obesity alone can increase the risk of heart attack (Bupa [online] 2011). It is thought that obesity may interfere with kidney function, hormonal and nervous systems, which in turn control blood pressure (Wellcome Trust [online] 2011). Heart disease is also linked to high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension increases the pressure in the blood vessels, and makes the heart work harder, which can lead the muscle to become thicker, and heart disease to develop. Hypertension also makes thickening of the walls of the blood vessels more pronounced (Medline Plus [online] (2010). Both these conditions can be caused by poor diet.
The primary focus of the study is upon the impact the food industry can make upon heart disease, but this will also involve looking at related conditions of obesity and hypertension, linked to poor health and caused by poor diet, but taking into account the complex relationship between people’s personal choices and the industry as a whole (Food Ethics Council [online] 2011). The food industry are able to play a part in a number of ways, by reducing fat content in food (NICE 2011) or by more responsible advertising (UK Faculty of Public Health [online] 2010). The dissertation will take the form of a literature review, considering current research and legislation about the area, followed by a discussion about what role the food industry plays and suggestions for how this can be improved.

2. Literature Review: Background
2.1 The current state of health in the developed world, and the incidence of heart disease
Within developed countries, heart disease is the single biggest cause of death (Parlimentary Office of Science and Technology, 2005). In the UK, heart disease is the main cause of death for men and women, and represents 20% of male deaths and approximately 12% of female (Office of National Statistics 2006).
2.2. The influence of diet on heart problems
Heart disease is clearly linked with a number of conditions as causes, including obesity and hypertension. Most heart problems are caused by the build up of fatty deposits within artery linings, or ‘atheroma’, in turn linked to ‘lifestyle factors’ including smoking, diet and exercise. A poor diet can lead to obesity, which is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, and conversely eating a healthy diet can help keep weight down and reduce the risk of heart problems. ( [online] 2011). This section will elaborate on these links.
3. Literature Review: The role of the food industry
This section will look at the role the food industry plays in improving diet. It will include a historical overview of the industry and its changing role, and will cover the different ways in which manufacturers of food and other bodies might influence diet, including supply of information about products, food advertising, labelling and pricing, and government policies on food, education and industry standards (Hawkes et al 2010). The relationship between manufacturers and legislation and guidelines will also be considered. This section will also look at the extent to which the food industry should take responsibility, and particularly at the relationship played by personal choice.
This section will also look at specific products, including products which are linked with obesity and heart disease, such as foods high in trans-fats and salt. The section will also look at products which the food industry claim can help with heart disease, for example Omega 3 fatty acid. It has been claimed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is linked to reduced rates of heart disease in both men and women (Hu et al 2002). Over the last 100 years or so, Western diets have changed to include much less omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oils. In Japan, the people of Kohama Island have the longest life expectancy worldwide, and lowest rates of heart disease, and also have high concentrations of omega 3 (Simopoulos, 1999)

3.1 The Future
This section will look at whether the food industry are playing as much of a role as they can in improving diet and, what further contributions they can make. It will have a discussive format, integrating evidence collected for earlier sections, and making suggestions for improvements.
4. Methodology
The study will take the form of an extended literature review and discussion, drawing information from a variety of sources. Online searches of academic and other databases will be used to find relevant information. The study will attempt to limit discussion to recent published sources, and sources relevant to the UK. The overall research approach is positivist, assuming an objective view, and assuming that reality can be measured and explained using scientific principles of investigation and qualitative data collection (Belk 2006)
4. Conclusion
This section will draw together implications from the literature review and discussion, and the implications for the original research area. This section will also discuss limitations of the research.
5. References
BBC (2011) ‘Diet and Heart Disease’ [online] (cited 6th June 2011), available from

Belk, R W (2006) Handbook of qualitative research methods in marketing, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham Glos.

British Heart Foundation (2011) ‘Poor diet costs NHS almost as much as smoking and alcohol, says study’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from

BUPA (2011) ‘Obesity stand alone risk for fatal heart disease’, [online] (cited 6th June 2011) available from

Food Ethics Council (2011) ‘Healthy Eating’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from 2011

Hawkes, C, Blouin, C, Henson, S, Drager, N and Dube, L (2010) Trade, Food, Diet and Health: Perspectives and Policy Options, John Wiley and Sons, Oxon

Hu, F B, Bronner, L, Willett, W C, Spampfer, M J and Rexrode, K M (2002) ‘Fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women’, Journal of the American Medical Association 2002 287: 1815-1821.

Medline Plus (2010) ‘Hypertensive Heart Disease’ [online] (cited 6th June 2011), available from

Medline (2011) ‘Heart Disease and Diet’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from

National Institute of Clinical Excellence (2011) ‘Cut salt and saturated fat levels in processed food to save thousands of lives, says NICE’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from

NHS Choices (2011) ‘Coronary Heart Disease’ [online] (cited 6th June 2011), available from

Office of National Statistics ‘Heart disease leading cause of death in England & Wales’, National Statistics News Release 20th May 2006, London. (2011) ‘Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from

Simopoulos, A P (1999) ‘Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70:3, 560-569

UK Faculty of Public Health (2011) ‘Ban transfats and junk food advertising before 9pm – FPH supports new NICE guidance’, [online] (cited 4th June 2011), available from

Wellcome Trust (2011) ‘How does obesity cause ill-health?’ [online] (cited 6th June 2011), available from

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