The Jamie Oliver effect?

July 10, 2010, 12:00 AM GMT+0

Government healthy eating campaigns have less influence on public awareness of health and fitness than celebrities and media figures, YouGov SixthSense data has found.

This insight is especially relevant in view of the recent spat between Health Minister Andrew Lansley and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver: at a conference in Brighton, the Minister criticised the ‘Jamie Oliver approach’ of ‘constantly lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do’. This is despite Prime Minister David Cameron having praised Oliver’s approach in the past.

Indeed, YouGov SixthSense research provides food for thought on both sides of the debate, with only 10% of adults currently claiming that they are influenced by government healthy eating campaigns, compared to 21% who say that they are influenced in their food choices by TV documentaries. A further 31% say they adopt ideas for what to eat from cookery programmes. However, the most influential group when deciding upon diet is friends and family, with 39% citing the advice of a friend or loved one as having the most influence on what they eat.

The report furthermore reveals that government influence often falls short in other aspects of public health, as only 13% of the population currently meets the recommended five-a-day quota for fruit and vegetables. Commenting on the findings, Research Director for YouGov SixthSense James McCoy said, ‘If the government wishes to provide a viable alternative to Jamie Oliver, then it would be wise to re-examine its own record thus far. There is considerable evidence in our report which suggests government influence is often marginal.’

The report does, however, simultaneously lend some weight to Andrew Lansley’s comments, with 1 in 3 respondents complaining that ‘there is a lot of fuss about what you can and can’t eat these days’ and 15% of UK adults claiming they ‘feel that they are on a perpetual diet’.

On this McCoy said, ‘It is difficult to strike the right balance. Although it is important to inform the public about the benefits of healthy eating, it is equally important that both government and media refrain from badgering unnecessarily.’

See more on the YouGov Healthy Living Report