A new book, The Building Blocks of Life, is shedding light on the importance of nutrition to human health and is challenging the UK Government’s nutrition policies. The book, written by TC Callis, a nutritionist and food regulatory expert, argues that nutrition underpins the structure and function of every cell in our bodies and impacts our physical and mental health throughout our lives.
Unfortunately, many mainstream UK healthcare practitioners receive little to no nutrition education during their years of training, which the book aims to address. The primary focus of government nutrition policy in the UK is obesity, and from 1992–2020, the UK government formulated 689 public health nutrition policies to tackle obesity. However, these strategies have failed to have any impact, and the issue continues to grow.
Furthermore, UK government data shows worrying shortfalls of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients across the UK population. The long-term health consequences of those shortfalls place a significant burden on an already overstretched and underfunded NHS. Diet-related conditions such as diabetes and obesity are already costing the NHS more than £16 billion a year, while hospital treatment for iron deficiency anaemia is costing in excess of £91 million a year. Prevention would be far better – and cheaper – than treatment.
The Building Blocks of Life outlines some of the health implications of poor nutrition, particularly shortfalls in micronutrients. For example, the UK is one of the most iodine-deficient countries on the planet. More than half of UK women of childbearing age have iodine levels that are so low that the lifelong cognitive abilities of any children they may have could be severely compromised. Similarly, more than half of all teenage girls in the UK have intakes of iron that are so low that they are at risk of anaemia.
The book is highly critical of UK nutrition policy, which the author views as hidebound and outdated. The Building Blocks of Life also sets out evidence-based challenges to many public health myths that the UK government continues to adhere to, like the decades-old fiction around fat consumption, which is now being challenged by scientists on a global scale.
The book’s conclusion states that: “Life expectancy in the UK is falling, with an increasing disparity between areas of deprivation and areas of wealth. Health inequalities and life expectancy are closely linked to diet. Poor diet is one of the leading causes of avoidable harm to our health, and better access to, and knowledge of, healthy affordable food would make a huge difference to the lives of many millions of UK citizens. Real food is the foundation of good health. Real food that involves peeling and chopping and cooking and flavour and chewing and socialising and family and love.”
Callis has worked for the UK government and then for the food industry for several decades. During this time, she has raised the profile of vitamin D at the national level and initiated and driven a collaborative project with the whole food supplements industry and government to gain a health claim on folic acid and neural tube defects. She has also commissioned multiple peer-reviewed papers and academic reports on the state of nutrition in the UK and coordinated nine trade associations with varying agendas in responding to UK government consultations on the use of single-use plastics, packaging, and recycling.
She is currently working as a freelance nutrition and advertising consultant to the food and advertising industries and is developing an education programme intended for primary care practitioners. She also writes articles on nutrition, food, and the politics of food for Kent Bylines, part of the Byline Times network.
The Building Blocks of Life provides an important insight into the impact of nutrition on human health and highlights the UK government’s outdated and ineffective nutrition policies, urging for a shift towards prevention rather than treatment.