Letter: Lack of nutrients in couch potatoes

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor Donald Naismith (letters, 28 September) argues that, since the British diet is adequate on average, obesity must be due to watching too much television. This ignores the distribution of nutritional values, which is just as important as the average.

Shoe manufacturers who made everything the average size would (I hope) soon go out of business. If I, as an economist, were to 'prove' that there is no poverty in this or that country because average income levels were sufficient to maintain a good standard of living, I should correctly be held up to ridicule. Yet we are asked to accept the counterpart of this argument when it applies to nutritional poverty.

The wider the distribution around the average, the more people will have less intake than they require for good health. When people lack certain nutrients, they feel hungry, and if the only food they are in the habit of eating is low in these nutrients, they need to take large amounts of energy- containing food to feel satisfied. The other product of poor nutrition is low levels of available energy, and this of course affects the other side of the energy balance.

This is why obesity - and life style - could well be a result of an unbalanced diet. Can someone tell us about the distribution of nutritional status, and its relationship with health and obesity?

Yours sincerely,

JOHN CUBBIN

Brentwood, Essex

28 September

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