Calls for a so-called “sugar tax” have focused attention on the impact that the nation’s diet is having on its health.
The National Obesity Conference has recommended a 50% tax on sugary drinks to help reduce the amount consumed by both children and adults in the UK. The Government is now considering if increasing the cost of some soft drinks might ease the UK’s obesity problem.
People are often surprised to discover how much sugar they are consuming through soft drinks. Even those claiming to be healthy, such as flavoured water and fruit juice, can be laden with sugar.
The NHS recommends that 5% of our total calorie intake should be from sugars. This is around 25g (six teaspoons) of sugar per day for adults, but on average we consume at least double this amount. One 330ml can of Coca-Cola contains 35g of sugar, equivalent to seven teaspoons.
In 2014, a major UK study found that some fruit juices aimed specifically at children contained even more sugar than a can of Coca-Cola.
While the more common negative impact of consuming too much sugar is well known, including its link to tooth decay, less is known about the negative impact on our physical health.
Too much sugar in our diets can lead to weight gain and obesity. The level of obesity is at an all time high across the world, and more worryingly, our children are becoming more overweight and obese at a younger age.
Being overweight not only increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers and fatty liver disease, but also the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Diabetes is a significant health problem in the UK, and as a GP is something I see daily. Currently there are over three million people in the UK battling Type 2 Diabetes, and that figure will nearly double in the next ten years.
A large number of patients could avoid Type 2 Diabetes by choosing a more balanced and healthy diet. A Cambridge University study found that by cutting out the equivalent of a single glass of orange squash every day, the risk of developing diabetes reduced by 25%.
I encourage my patients to check food and drink labels to enable them to make informed decisions about their diet. I also recommend substituting soft drinks for water or unsweetened fruit juices, and diluting squashes as much as possible.
Your doctor can help provide information on healthy diet and lifestyle choices for you and your family. Always check with your doctor before starting any new diets if you have existing health conditions.