BREXIT could lead to unhealthier eating in the UK and more diet-related deaths, according to an Oxford study.

The research suggests post-Brexit free trade deals could see poorer diets in the country.

The study – published yesterday in the journal Nature Food – estimated how post-Brexit trade and agriculture policies could impact dietary health in the UK, looking at how different post-Brexit strategies would affect the intake, availability and cost of food.

The study was led by Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, and Florian Freund of the Thünen Institute, in Germany.

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Dr Springmann said: “Our study shows that a ‘global Britain’ strategy, that includes trade agreements with large exporters of foods that are neither healthy nor sustainable, runs counter to public health considerations and should be subjected to serious scrutiny.”

The study found that Britain is heavily reliant on imports and therefore vulnerable to changes in trade policy.

Half of all food consumed in the UK is imported, including more than three quarters of all fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, poor diets with too few fruits and vegetables, too much red and processed meat, and too many calories, are one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the UK.

The study suggests a ‘global Britain’ strategy – negotiating free trade agreements with countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States – could lower the costs of beef, pork, wheat and oils.

Oxford Mail: Brexit could lead to unhealthier eating in the UK and more diet-related deaths, according to an Oxford study. Picture: PixabayBrexit could lead to unhealthier eating in the UK and more diet-related deaths, according to an Oxford study. Picture: Pixabay

If these were to become an increased part of the national diet, calorie intake would rise, leading to obesity and health problems such as cancers and heart conditions.

Dr Freund said: “Our findings highlight the need for health-sensitive trade and agricultural reforms.

“More food is not always better, but it’s all about the right mix.

“Protecting people’s health requires consistent policies that don’t shy away from discouraging unhealthy foods and promoting healthy ones.”

Oxford Mail: Fruit and vegetables. Picture: PixabayFruit and vegetables. Picture: Pixabay

The study suggests harms such as poorer diets and deaths can be offset by making concerns for healthy eating central to trade policy.

The study shows that when farmers are encouraged to grow more fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses and nuts, domestic production of each of these foods could rise by 18 per cent, increasing their consumption and avoiding higher intakes of unhealthy and high-calorie foods.

The programme is a part of the Oxford Martin School, where academics analyse ‘the world’s most urgent challenges’, including renewable energy, ocean sustainability and inequality.

Two hundred academics work across more than 30 research programmes at the Oxford Martin School.

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