A Cambridge health expert said there is “no quick fix for nutrition” following a new report advising the government to halve the recommended intake of sugars to help address the growing obesity and diabetes crises and reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said, ‘We’re asking parents to take a big step to establish a lifetime of healthy eating habits for their children by replacing sugary drinks with sugar free and no added sugar drinks, lower fat milks or water. The Department of Health said that it accepted SACN’s recommendations, which will feed into its forthcoming national strategy on childhood obesity.
Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, which leads to a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, while the SACN’s report also focused on the damage that sugar causes to teeth.
The Royal Society for Public Health and the British Dental Association (BDA) also called for government intervention.
“Manufacturers must follow the example of retailers by introducing traffic light labelling, so it’s obvious how much sugar products contain especially those aimed at children”, he said.
The report maintains the current recommendation that starchy carbohydrates – particularly wholegrain – should form 50% of daily calorie intake.
“The food industry has said calories in household foods and drinks have been gradually lowered in recent years, including sugar reductions and changes to portion sizes”.
“Cut down on sugars, increase fibre and we’ll all have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives”.
But Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, points out there is no suggestion that sugar cannot be included as part of a balanced diet in SACN’s report.
Sugar firm AB Sugar agreed that the recommendations contributed to the conflicting advice given to consumers about what to eat. Sensationalist commentaries on this everyday ingredient that are not based in science should now be relegated to the past.
Achieving the expected threshold for added sugar – no more than 5% of calories consumed – will be a challenge for government, industry and the public.
But not everyone seems to agree with the recommendations set out by SACN. The recommendation is also aimed at improving dental health.
“We are happy to have that debate, including the role education should have in what people eat”. Published diet modelling3 shows that people can reduce free sugars and boost fibre in the diet in a number of ways while still fitting in the foods and drink they enjoy.
With warnings that a third of the population will be obese by 2030, the British Medical Association is right to recommend a 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables, and help tackle the increasing level of obesity and diet-related health problems across the UK.