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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

What shall I eat in Brazil and in Scotland?

Who has recently opened their fridge, contemplated the contents and pondered: “What shall I eat?” Naturally, you can only eat what is in there. What was in there? If you have been inspired by the SCPN’s #HealthyShelfie campaign, there is a good chance you could pick from fresh wholesome foods. If you really nailed it, the contents of your fridge could tell the season of the year or even which country, or part of a country, you live in.

01 - A Green Start To The Year

F Marian McNeill described the times pre-Agrarian Revolution (pre 1750s) in her book The Scots Kitchen:  Its Tradition and Recipes: “In the olden times, when the population was small and parse – by the beginning of the sixteenth century it did not exceed half a million – the means of sustenance were on the whole plentiful. The moors and forests abounded with game; elsewhere ‘herds of kye nocht tame’ with flesh of a marvellous sweetness, ‘of a wonderful tenderness, and excellent delicateness of taste’ ranged the hills. Rivers, lochs, and seas teemed with fish. Sheep were valued mainly for their wool, cows for their milk. Butter and cheese were in use in the earliest times and the oat and barley crops have always provided the staple bread”.

She painted a beautiful picture of the Scottish food heritage. Two centuries later, Lord Boyd Orr, director of the Rowett Nutrition Institute gave a different account of the Scottish diet: “Up until the middle of the last [nineteenth] century, the people of Scotland were eating natural foodstuffs. With the introduction of machinery, this has been changed… Natural foods have been changed into artificial foodstuffs, with the very best substances purified away that the Almighty put there to keep us in perfect health.”

Today, Scottish land, waters and resources combined with a reviving food culture and cutting edge research have the potential to make the Scottish diet one of the healthiest in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In Scotland, diets are shaped on the one hand by eating too little nutritious food, such as fruit and vegetables, oil-rich fish, nuts and seeds, and high-fibre carbohydrates, and on the other by eating too much fat, sugar and salt. The outcome is an overconsumption of energy and nutrient-poor foods such as heavily promoted confectionery, cakes, biscuits, pastries, savoury snacks and sugary drinks. These foods, historically considered as treats, are now eaten frequently as snacks. Sadly, many Scottish adults do not recognise the problem believing their diets to be healthy. The question is: What can we do about it?

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© World Obesity

In 2014, the Brazilian government introduced very different dietary guidelines which focused on environmental sustainability and in which food was framed as a cultural and social value. The guidelines categorise foods according to the extent of processing rather than recommending levels of separate nutrients. This approach encourages fresh and minimally processed foods and actively discourages consumption of ultra-processed foods and drink products. The guidelines recommend traditional, healthy foods and give ideas for healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. They give ten recommendations and one Golden Rule: “Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed products.”

Anyone, when asked ‘What to do to eat healthily?’ could come up with most of the Brazilian dietary recommendations:

  1. Make unprocessed or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet
  2. Use processed culinary ingredients in small amounts for seasoning and cooking foods and to create culinary preparations
  3. Limit consumption of processed foods
  4. Avoid ultra-processed products
  5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company
  6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods
  7. Develop, exercise and share cooking skills
  8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life
  9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals
  10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

Could we use a similar guide in Scotland? Would it be more effective at improving national diet or perhaps the contents of your fridge?

One thing is certain: Scottish diet is poor and we need to do whatever we can to improve it. Getting inspiration and directions from our amazing food heritage and culture could lay the foundation to Scottish diet becoming one of the healthiest in the world.

6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Bowel Cancer

by Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund UK

Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. However, by making a few simple lifestyle changes, we have the power to significantly lower our risk of developing this common disease.

Continue reading “6 Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Bowel Cancer”

Raising awareness of the causes of bowel cancer and making a difference!

Is your glass half full or half empty? Around 50% of bowel cancer is related to lifestyle – most notably eating too much red and processed meat, drinking too much alcohol, consuming too many calories, taking too little fibre and not doing enough physical activity. Excess body weight is an important cause too – especially in men. Around 50% of the disease is due to other causes – genetics, environment, unknowns.

Continue reading “Raising awareness of the causes of bowel cancer and making a difference!”

Finally, the FIT Revolution is Here

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which again offers us the opportunity to further publicise all aspects of bowel cancer screening, diagnosis and prevention. It is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. However, if detected early, this cancer is eminently treatable and curable and almost all people diagnosed at the earliest stages will survive.

Continue reading “Finally, the FIT Revolution is Here”

Early Cancer Diagnosis? Good News!

Why should receiving a diagnosis of early cancer be good news?  Well the reason is simply that, in most instances, early cancer is completely curable.

This of course calls into question the definition of curable, but if we accept that a reasonable definition is dying of an unrelated cause, with no evidence of the “cured” disease in question, then the majority of cases of early cancer are truly curable.

Continue reading “Early Cancer Diagnosis? Good News!”

Dry Drinking The Sociable Way

Every time I show the slide that says “35% of Scottish women aged over 50 drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week,” I am reminded that this includes me.  I would not describe myself as a heavy drinker, but I do drink more than I know is appropriate for my health. From my research on alcohol intake in women and breast cancer risk, I know that I am not alone in being reluctant to discuss the pleasure of red wine consumption with health professionals.

Continue reading “Dry Drinking The Sociable Way”

5 Reasons to Celebrate No Smoking Day 

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland

No Smoking Day is just around the corner on Tuesday 8 March. But why should your organisation take up the baton to promote it?

Continue reading “5 Reasons to Celebrate No Smoking Day “

Scotland Obesity strategy – Scottish voices

The role of obesity in cancer is too big to ignore.

© World Obesity
© World Obesity

What is agreed is that Scotland needs a bold and brave strategy for tackling obesity. There will be no “one size fits all”. In our blog published on January 1st, we reflected on what has happened in 10 years and where we might progress. This week we are continuing this theme and have asked SCPN friends who have many years experience in the obesity field to give us their top 5 aspirations for the forthcoming obesity strategy?  Continue reading “Scotland Obesity strategy – Scottish voices”

Scotland Obesity strategy – Scottish voices

The role of obesity in cancer is too big to ignore.

© World Obesity
© World Obesity

What is agreed is that Scotland needs a bold and brave strategy for tackling obesity. There will be no “one size fits all”. In our blog published on January 1st, we reflected on what has happened in 10 years and where we might progress. This week we are continuing this theme and have asked SCPN members who have many years experience in the obesity field to give us their top 5 aspirations for the forthcoming obesity strategy?  Continue reading “Scotland Obesity strategy – Scottish voices”

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