New sugar guidelines cause a stir

Posted on: 2 September 2015

For the first time since the 1980s, scientists have recently updated guidelines on the maximum amount of sugar we should eat and drink each day, halving the current recommended limit.  The guidelines suggest that no more than 5% of daily calories should come from added sugar – about seven teaspoons or 28g for children and adults over the age of 11.

All age groups are currently consuming at least twice this amount, with children currently consuming three times this amount. The guidelines do not count naturally occurring sugar, found in whole fruit and milk, but fruit juice is limited to 150ml a day. Public Health England have endorsed the recommendations and are calling on parents to replace all sugary drinks in their children’s diets, which currently make up around of a third of their daily sugar intake, saying: “Sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet.”

New Guidelines (Source: Change 4 Life)

guidelines c4l

Sickly sweet

Sugary food and drink make us more likely to overeat and often replace healthier food such as fruit and vegetables, leading to obesity and diet-related ill health. We are all too familiar with the devastating impact to our own and our children’s health from obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Around one fifth of children are obese by the age of 11 and almost two thirds of adults are overweight or obese. Based on national estimates, at least 500 deaths in Devon per year can be attributed to obesity-related illness. The UK has the highest rates of obesity in Western Europe, with the exception of Iceland and Malta. Too much sugar also increases the risk of tooth decay and, shockingly, the leading reason for admission to hospital for children is to have teeth removed under anaesthetic.

An expensive habit

As individuals, poor diet is costing us our health, fitness, energy levels, and shortening our lives. Poor diet is also costing us as a nation. The NHS is straining under a burden of obesity and diet-related illnesses. Overweight and obesity cost an estimated £5.1 billion per year and poor dental hygiene costs approximately £3.4 billion a year.

cost of obesity

Sweet opportunity

The good news is that if we can tackle obesity and poor diet, there are huge opportunities to save the NHS money.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“Everyone’s talking about an NHS in crisis, creaking at the seams. But by focusing on prevention, we can have a healthier population and ease the burden on the NHS.

“We can all take simple steps to take control of our lifestyle, including eating more healthily and being more physically active.

“And we need to think not just about individual responsibility, but also the food culture we have created. In our modern society we are bombarded by fat, salt and sugar-laden products, making healthy choices a constant battle. A sugary drinks duty could be one way to make healthier choices easier.”

The British Medical Association has joined calls for a sugary drinks duty, the proceeds of which could be used to pay for schemes such as free fruit and vegetables for children.

Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:

“We know from tackling smoking that increasing price does reduce consumption, we naturally buy less of something when it costs a little bit more.

“Although food and drink is more complex than tobacco, there is a strong argument for trying out a sugary drinks duty, alongside other measures such as clear nutritional labelling and advertising restrictions. Sugary drinks have no nutritional value, they’re attractive to children, and easy to consume in large quantities. They’re often cheaper than water. Our preference for sugary, sweet and fatty foods starts when we are young, so preventing children from acquiring a lifelong sweet tooth should be a priority.”

“Although some progress can be made by working in partnership with the food industry even the most well-intentioned company is ultimately required to put their shareholder’s interests first, which means they have to do whatever will increase consumption and oppose whatever will decrease it.”

The World Health Organisation agrees that tackling obesity must include comprehensive action and control of commercial interests. Director-General Margaret Chan puts it like this: “Let me remind you. Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business.”

Andrea Davis added: “The UK has led the way on salt reduction, by putting pressure on the food industry to reduce salt in food products, which has contributed to a reduction in deaths from strokes and heart disease. Many food products are 20-40% lower in salt than they were 10 years ago, making it easier for us to eat less than 6g per day. Now it’s time to take on sugar in the same way.”

Sugar Swaps – Top Tips

sugar swap top tips

Click to enlarge

4 comments on “New sugar guidelines cause a stir

  1. Clare Miller says:

    Given that “The World Health Organisation agrees that tackling obesity must include comprehensive action and control of commercial interests” and “This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business”; what more is DCC planning to do to promote (sugar related) healthy lifestyles amongst staff and provide access to healthy food options on site?
    Perhaps staff could come up with some ideas……

    • louise.raymond says:

      Hi Clare – great idea – we’ll include a piece in this week’s Insider to encourage staff suggestions and you can also comment on the Staff News Centre.

  2. Clare Stone says:

    Good advice but need to provide the Top Tips in a better format for blowing up to a reasonable size without being blurry please.

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