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Is cheap junk food to blame for Wales’ obesity crisis?

PRICE promotions are largely to blame for shoppers in Wales stocking up on junk food, a new poll by Cancer Research UK has found.

Almost nine in 10 (86%) of those questioned in the survey of over 1,000 people in Wales said they think that price deals offering extra items for free are influential in encouraging people to buy unhealthy food.

And an overwhelming 68% of people polled said temporary price reductions on junk food influenced them to buy junk food. Three in five people (58%) said temporary cut price deals influenced their decision on what to buy.

The results of this significant poll have been published just ahead of the Welsh Government launching a three-month public consultation into how it should put in place an effective obesity strategy.

In Wales, around 1,000 cases of cancer a year are down to being overweight or obese. 13 types of cancer are linked to obesity, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney.

Wales also has the highest childhood obesity rate among four and five-year-olds in Britain. Six in 10 adults and more than a quarter of children living in Wales are overweight or obese. Against this backdrop, Cancer Research UK believes strong action is needed to improve the health of the nation.

Andy Glyde, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager in Wales said:

“These offers are unhelpful and unhealthy, persuading people to ignore their shopping lists and buy cheap junk food in large quantities.

“And with a shocking number of people overweight and obese in Wales, it’s clear our growing waistlines are a significant worry and strong action is needed.

“The Welsh Government has an opportunity and obligation to help people here stack the odds of not getting cancer in their favour.

“By restricting special offers on unhealthy food and drink, the Welsh Government can do something really effective to influence the contents of our shopping baskets and help us all keep a healthier weight.”

Someone who knows how hard it is to resist tempting offers on junk food is mum-of-two Jaimie Treharne from Ammanford.

At her largest, 31-year-old Jaimie was a size 24. After changing her eating habits Jaimie lost an impressive four stone in four months and is now a size 14/16.

She believes the Welsh Government should do more to help people in Wales shop more healthily.

Jaime said: “It’s shocking that Wales has such a big obesity problem and I know from experience that supermarket promotions on junk food play a big part.

“Buy-one-get-one-free offers were one of the main reasons I put on weight. I would buy biscuits and crisps that were on offer thinking they would last a few weeks. That never happened, and I would binge eat as the temptation was too strong.

“I believe limiting the multibuy offers on food that’s high in fat will encourage families to make better choices and ultimately live healthier lives.”

Jaimie also worries about the link between obesity and cancer, particularly as her mum suffered from the disease. And while her mum’s cancer wasn’t weight related, Jaimie is determined to live life more healthily to stack the odds of not getting the disease in her favour.

Jaimie said: “When my mum was going through treatment, I temporarily lived with my auntie and uncle when I was six years old. It was a difficult time and that experience has stayed with me.

“I want to do everything I can to see my children grow up and I know eating healthily will help me achieve this.”

Jaimie started her weight loss journey two years ago and now helps other people struggling with their weight as a Cambridge Weight Plan consultant.

Jaimie said: “I can’t look at my wedding pictures as that’s when I was at my biggest. Something clicked one day and I decided I couldn’t go on living the way I had been.

“Now, my mindset has completely shifted and I now go out of my way to avoid the big supermarkets with multibuy offers so I can make healthier choices for my family.”