Despite considerable progress in tackling cardiovascular disease (CVD), it remains the leading cause of death and a major cause of illness and disability for men and women in Europe. Dietary risks are responsible for around half of the death and disability caused by CVD and may cost the economy of the European Union economy €102 billion a year.
On World Heart Day 2017, the European Heart Network published its paper on Transforming European food and drink policies for cardiovascular health. Since EHN published its previous paper on Diet, Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Europe, in 2011, there have been many major developments in both the scientific arena and the policy landscape.
A review of the recent scientific developments and an in-depth look at some of the recent media reports of ‘controversies’ on diet and health show that, generally speaking, the evidence on the links between diet and CVD has strengthened, rather than weakened, in the last few years.
The paper presents a set of population goals, revised to take the new evidence into account; the goals provide clear pointers towards a cardiovascular health promoting diet for Europe.
Food policies are at the heart of the EU, and the paper notes that in order to secure access to healthy foods, trans-border policies are necessary. Factors influencing what food is brought to the market are well beyond the reach of individual governments – let alone individuals.
The paper contains a package of policy interventions that comprises three overarching recommendations accompanied by three clusters of specific recommendations relating to food-supply and food-demand as well as composition of food. The recommendations include: policies to tackle cardiovascular health inequalities; the common agricultural policy; food labelling; and trans fats.
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