I got into an interesting conversation with a Scottish friend of mine recently. It stemmed from the recent election results, and the emergence of the SNP as a significant presence in the House of Commons; and as is common during discussions about politics, the focus soon moved onto the topic of health and the NHS.
My colleague made an incredibly valid point which I agreed with, and which stuck with me. It was that Scots have a negative and undeserved reputation among the rest of the UK when it comes to looking after their health.
My friend noted that deep-fried foods and poor oral hygiene are images which are somewhat synonymous with Scotland in public discourse; but in actuality, other areas of the UK aren’t necessarily any better when it comes to fast food consumption and looking after their teeth.
With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at these areas in more detail, and explore whether people are more likely to succumb to poor dietary or oral health practices in Scotland than they are in England:
The main attraction of fast food chains is their convenience. They’re most often situated on the busy main streets, and for many they’re the safe, recognisable bet in train stations and airports. They’re present in towns and cities up and down the UK in abundance. But the simpler options aren’t always the healthiest. It’s no secret that fast food is generally high in saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Recently, myself and the Treated.com team did a little research. We looked at the major towns and cities in Scotland, to see whether the presence of the big names in fast food such as McDonald’s, Subway and Dominos, was any more pronounced than it was in England.
There were some interesting results thrown up, but overall little difference in terms of store density.
We found that in Edinburgh and Glasgow, there were 13 and 22 McDonald’s stores respectively, serving city-wide populations of 487,500 and 596,550. That’s one store for every 37,500 people in the capital, and one for every 27,116 in Glasgow. The figure for Glasgow was admittedly quite high. But further out in Inverness, for example, there is just one store serving a population of over 62,000.
Let’s compare that to Liverpool and Birmingham. In Birmingham, there are around 28 stores, serving an estimated population of 1,092,330. That’s one store to every 39,011. In Liverpool, there are 12 branches serving a city population of 466,415, or one to every 38,867.
Now these figures are only estimates, and based on the most recent available information. But from what we can see, fast food outlets aren’t significantly more populous north of the border than they are south of it.
- My advice
When it comes to avoiding fast food, the best defence against being tempted is to plan ahead. If you’re going on a shopping trip, eat breakfast or lunch before you leave the house.
That’s not to say that you shouldn't enjoy the occasional meal out, but if you’re in the mood for eating out, book a table at a restaurant that offers healthier options. That way, you’re making a decision not to eat badly before you can be enticed. Remember that the less decided you are, the more tempted you’ll be to take the easy (and less healthy) way out.
Another opinion my colleague posited was that Scots have a poor and unfair reputation for oral hygiene.
Calvin Harris and James McAvoy are examples of famous Scots who have reportedly had dental work done; and it could be argued that this was partly to give their appearance more mainstream appeal.
However, other personalities such as Craig Ferguson and Kelly MacDonald are shining examples of Scots who have used their winning smiles to their advantage; without having undergone dental cosmetics.
Recent figures show that only around two thirds (69%) of Scottish adults go for regular check-ups. But compare this to the rest of the UK. According to statistics from the British Dental Health Foundation, who organise National Smile Month, Scots are no worse at oral hygiene than their neighbours. The percentage of people who regularly visit their dentist is around the same in Wales as it is in Scotland (69%); whereas in England, the figure is actually lower at 61%; and drops to 60% in Northern Ireland.
- My advice
Those who want to keep on top of oral hygiene, wherever they are in the UK, should brush twice a day: once at night, and again at another point throughout the day. Doing so will help to limit the need for fillings.
But remember that dental problems aren’t always obvious until severe pain sets in. So even if you think you don’t need to, visit your dentist regularly.
Limit sugary foods and fizzy drinks, as these are significant offenders when it comes to poor oral health.
And finally, if you smoke, stop. As well as staining your teeth, smoking can aggravate gum disease, which can cause bleeding and lead to teeth falling out.
Just a note to say that the full results of this study can be found on the Scotsman and Daily Record websites. Links provided below: