An independent panel of experts, chaired by Professor Mike Kelly, Public Health Centre Director at the National Centre of Clinical Excellence (NICE), considered the Agency's current nutrition research and survey focus.
The Panel noted that although the treatment of obesity remains the remit of other funders, due to the prevalence of obesity and overweight in the UK, the FSA should commission obesity-related work, for example, effective dietary and behaviour change interventions to prevent unhealthy weight gain, particularly in nutritionally vulnerable groups such as young adults.
And the experts claim that the two existing FSA programmes exploring how people make food choices should be merged for more flexibility in remit and scope.
Furthermore, they suggest, individual agency programmes such as Diet and Cardiovascular Health and Nutritional Status and Function should be restructured to create one overarching programme focusing on the processes leading to nutrition-related disease.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the biggest threat to health in the UK and in 2006 accounted for 198,000 deaths, notes the Panel’s report, with the principal forms of CVD being coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.
According to the experts’ report, while death rates from CHD have been falling in the UK, morbidity, particularly in older age groups, is rising, and a variety of factors modify the risk of developing CVD, including diet, which can exert beneficial effects on at least three risk factors, namely blood cholesterol, blood pressure and overweight and obesity.
In their published recommendations, the experts stressed the importance of continuing to collect data about dietary adequacy and quality at different lifestages, including both the National Diet and Nutrition rolling programme and the new diet and nutrition survey of infants and young children.
They also noted that there was a paucity of data on pregnant women.
The Panel also recommended that work under the diet and colonic health programme could be more appropriately funded by others, and that FSA should no longer financially support of this area.
In addition, the report suggests that the FSA should continue to fund and give priority to translational research such as testing hypotheses that have been generated through a variety of biological research methods or study types in large-scale dietary interventions of public health relevance.
The FSA said it backed the recommendations of the review, which is said are captured in its strategic plan 2010-2015, which aims to achieve the outcome that consumers understand safe food and healthy eating, and have the information they need to make informed choices.