Research suggests Brexit will increase heart disease and stroke cases

Researchers from Imperial College London have claimed that Brexit will be responsible for 12,400 deaths due to heart attacks and strokes.

The claims made by the researchers, state that the present trading arrangements in the United Kingdom is likely to raise the prices of fruits and vegetables that are imported and this may prompt unhealthier eating and lead to heart disease and risk of deaths due to heart attacks and stroke.

Image Credit: FotoIdee / Shutterstock
Image Credit: FotoIdee / Shutterstock

The team draws conclusions from the data that come from World Trade Organization and HM Revenue and Customs. The economists however do not agree with these conclusions saying that prices of fruits and vegetables are likely to fall after Brexit.

This debate came to the forefront after a combined petition from supermarket and restaurant chains (including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Lidl, The Co-op, Costcutter, McDonald’s, KFC and Pret A Manger) to the MPs saying that there is a risk of food supply disruptions after a “no-deal” Brexit. The research on the risks of heart disease after Brexit were published in the latest issue of the journal BMJ Open. The study also included researchers from Liverpool University.

The researchers write that at present 84 percent of the fruits and 43 percent of vegetables consumed in UK is imported. This means that in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit this would be affected. “The UK is highly dependent on imports, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. These have a strong protective effect on health,” said author Paraskevi Seferidi, a PhD researcher at Imperial. “Our paper illustrates, for the first time, the potential negative impacts of Brexit on fruit and veg prices, intake, heart disease and stroke,” Seferidi said.

For example they write, the cost of bananas would rise by “approximately 17 per cent, citrus fruits by 14 per cent, and tomatoes by 15 per cent”. This could be responsible for 4,110 (0.9 percent) deaths due to heart failure and heart attacks between 2021 and 2030. During this period there would be a predicted 8,290 (2.9 percent) deaths due to stroke.

Professor Christopher Millet, from Imperial’s School of Public Health in a statement says that this study “shows that the impact of Brexit will reach far beyond the economy and may affect people’s risk of disease.” Christopher Snowdon from the Institute of Economic Affairs however disagreed with these findings.

Edgar Miller, convenor of Economists for Free Trade also said in a statement, “This is Project Fear at its very worst – a report written by a group of generally junior medical researchers none of whom have any discernible expertise in trade theory or experience in modelling trade flows. Getting rid of EU protectionism through free trade agreements and unilateral elimination of tariffs on fruit and vegetables that are not produced in the UK will result in an immediate fall in food prices.”

Professor Martin O’Flaherty, from the University of Liverpool, who jointly led the study said in a statement, “Unhealthy diets are a leading driver of ill-health in the UK and a critical policy lever to tackle chronic diseases. Staying within the European Union appears the best option to protect public health.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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