The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is calling for the NHS to provide more support for people wanting to eat healthily.

The organisation’s rally cry comes after almost 40% of people surveyed in April this year said they wanted access to a registered dietitian for advice and support.

Fewer than 7,000 dietitians are employed by the NHS, meaning people have to wait weeks to see a dietitian when referred by a GP or consultant, the BDA says.

On Thursday, Spanish researchers addressed the dangers of ultra-processed foods, prompting proposals for taxation and marketing restrictions. Worryingly, even though dietary elements such as high sugar and high carb foods are being rightly being called out as dangerous for health, the BDA found that some people rely on distinctly untrustworthy sources of dietary information.

The BDA survey revealed that many people continue to get their information about healthy eating from TV shows and social media, rather than from expert, trustworthy sources.

Linia Patel from the BDA said: “It isn’t surprising that people are getting so much of their advice from online and on the telly, but the problem is this advice is often not based on scientific evidence. The internet now means we’ve got access to more information than ever before, and it can be difficult to sift the fact from the fiction.”

Recent NHS figures reveal that 29% of the adult population in the UK is obese, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Yet the BDA’s survey data also showed that two thirds of Brits think advice on healthy eating is clear.

Platforms such as Diabetes Digital Media’s NHS approved Low Carb Program app are showing that people can lose weight and improve their blood glucose levels by eating a real-food diet, and the BDA has urged for additional NHS action in tackling poor diet.

Caroline Bovey, chair of the BDA, added: “Dietetic services across the UK are doing an amazing job but they could be doing so much more. Bad diet is the single biggest lifestyle factor in determining ill health – even more than smoking – so it is ridiculous that we have so few health professionals who specialise in diet and nutrition.

This survey shows there is significant demand from the public – governments and commissioners need to ensure they are meeting this need.”

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