Cutting UK sugar intake Public Health England Report Oct 2015

Public Health England put a number of recommendations out today to help cut the UK's intake of sugar in an attempt to reduce the health consequences of obesity, tooth decay and other related diseases.


The recommendations include.  

.  A sugar tax between 10% and 20%

.  Significantly reducing advertising high sugar food and drink to children

.  Targeting supermarkets and take-away special offers

.  Sugar reduction in everyday food and drink

.   Ensure the sale of healthier foods in hospitals and other public bodies


 However the science on sugar and disease is not so clear cut. The link with sugar to tooth decay is clear, that is where the 5% of energy figure came from. There is some evidence that high sugar drinks is related to weight gain and increased risk of type 2 diabetes in teenagers and children. There is no clear cut strong evidence for intake of sugar and type 2 diabetes or weight gain, only an association. 


What is clear -  over consume anything and that causes problems. Over consume sugary foods on top of your normal energy intake and that is likely to lead to weight gain. 


A high sugar intake is of course associated with being a poor quality diet - because it's typically made up chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets and sugar drinks - not your ideal healthy balance. Sugary drinks can slip in easily on top of normal food intake as often we don't think of it as food and it also doesn't give the same feeling of fullness as eating and chewing food - so we can add up quite a bit of sugar without noticing it. 


'Free sugar'  - that's sugar from any sugar added to food or drink including honey, syrups, fruit juice and fruit juice concentrate are to have new set limits of 5% of energy from age 2 years up according to SACN report 2015. 


This works out at:

19g of sugar or 3 teaspoons for children up to 6years

24g of sugar or 4 teaspoons for children age 7-10years

30g of sugar  or 5 teaspoons for adults and children over 11years. 


The NDNS 2008-2011 showed children age 4-10 years currently have 61g of sugar a day, with teenagers having the most at 74g of sugar on average - with the main sources being sweetened drinks, biscuits, cakes, pastries and cereals. 


Here's my view:

Rather than focussing on one nutrient it is far more practical to encourage people to eat healthier foods rather than add up the total of one nutrient.  By doing this the details such as amount of sugar falls into place naturally. 


If you take out sugar as a single focus, it has to be replaced by something and that replacement might not be ideal. Maltodextrin with a high glycaemic index can be used as a thickener and might be used to replace sugars. Fat content may go up as sugars goes down. 


So instead, lets look at reducing those treat foods, which means on the odd occasion, not daily!


Ways to do this to help all of us include the recommendations in this report. 


We know that having items at the checkout increases the purchase of this item. So removing sugary and fatty foods at the check outs makes sense. Not having 2 for 1 offers on these foods -  that means you've got more of them in the home or in your hand so you're more likely to eat them.  


Instead having lots of promotions and offers and checkout placement on the healthy foods so you've got them in your hand instead is the way to go.


As for taxing - 10% - 20% means a £1 bottle or can would cost £1.10 - £1.20. Not sure that would make someone stop and think over here in the affluent. Preliminary results in Mexico on taxing sugary drinks show a small reduction in purchase, likely to hit the poorest sectors of society who may be most at risk.

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