PHE Report: sugar & an increase in obesity

Sugar. It is definitely not good for you, but a controversial report released by Public Health England suggests that it may be the cause for the excessive and life-threatening rise in obesity witnessed over the past 30 years.

Both children and adults have suffered from this dramatic rise in weight gain, and the health risks associated cost both the individual, the government and the tax-payer an inordinate amount of money to treat. And yet many of the illnesses are entirely preventable.

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The in’s & out’s of the situation

The question before us now is that of cause, responsibility and action.

PHE claims that the increase in waistlines and corresponding illness is not due to a new breed of greed, but rather a highly competitive food and drink industry. An industry where sugar is everywhere – abounding in beverages, added to takeaways and ready meals, whilst supermarkets offer discounts on sugar-laden foods. Although there may be an understandable hesitation for governments to begin restricting the choices of the public, according to the PHE enough is enough.

With calls to regulate food promotions and advertising, to put a stop to child-focused campaigns (advergames) that cause children to demand sugary foods, and to ensure that clear and relevant information is on display for all consumer products, PHE hopes to combat the spread of obesity and the clear health risks associated with it. Alongside this a potential ‘Sugar Tax’ has been suggested, to encourage a spending cut on unhealthy items.

WatchFit Experts Respond

We’ve reached out to four of our fantastic experts to share their opinions on this PHE report, sugar and obesity from both a local and international viewpoint. Thank you to Carolina Brooks, Polly Hale, Sinead Loughnane and Julie Meek for their invaluable insights in this two part series.

Sugar & Health

Julie:

“The current discussion in the UK on the introduction of a sugar tax is one that is applicable to so many developed countries. While spending money on bubbles of sugary liquid certainly hits the hip pocket, it’s not just about the financial cost. Consuming one 375mL can of regular soft drink per day could lead to an astounding weight gain of 6.5kg in one year along with the intake of 18kg of sugar!

In Australia, unhealthy diets and being overweight and obese are the Number 1 reason for poor health, with smoking now falling to third place. Nearly half the Australian population consumes a sugary drink each day and yet research shows that reducing the intake of just one sugary drink a day could cut a persons risk of diabetes by 18 per cent.”

Carolina: 

“The majority of the population eats processed convenience food, microwave meals laden with sugar, fat and salt or breakfast biscuits to eat on the go. And most of those people have no idea that this could be responsible for their ill health, from obesity at one extreme to a potential for sore joints, asthma or eczema at the other.  Even the brightly coloured breakfast cereals so prominently displayed in supermarkets contain shocking amounts of sugar.  I see young mothers on the bus feeding their children sugary drinks in bottles or giving them biscuits to calm them down not realising it makes the children more hyperactive.

What happens to excess sugar in the diet? It gets converted to fat. Excess sugar in the diet also impairs mitochondrial function, which means our energy production is not as efficient as it could be.”

Polly:

An excess of calories coming from any food will lead to weight gain. The thing is with sugar is it’s addictive, it’s very easy to overeat (it’s not in the least satiating), and it’s not even an important nutrient to health. Too many calories of salmon, or blueberries, or eggs, will all lead to weight gain, but at least these are superbly nutritious foods that contribute to health, not diminish it, as is the case with too much sugar.

PHE sugar tax report_2The government & its responsibility

Carolina: 

Why has the government been so reluctant to publish the sugar reduction report?

Government tends to favour what is good for big business. Look at how long it took for anti-tobacco measures to be implemented! This makes no sense to me because the NHS is groaning under the sheer weight and cost of chronic health problems. On the other hand, all this chronic disease is a booming business for the private healthcare sector, the incentive to encourage good health is lost when the promise of long term treatment for diabetes, obesity and so on promise a continuous source of income for pharmaceutical companies and private healthcare.”

Sinead:

“The rise in obesity amongst children and adults has grown so quickly that it is no longer something that can be ignored by government officials.”

Polly :

“In 1948 in the UK a health system was developed to provide basic but life-saving health care for everyone. No longer would people die of diseases and injuries because they were not able to afford it. It was a humbling humanitarian decision that many people still rely on. Fast forward to today and you can get your teeth straightened, your boobs enlarged, and you can disregard any self-responsibility because however badly you treat your body, the NHS is there to pick up the pieces, at a mere cost of £5bn a year, courtesy of tax payers.

But is it sugar’s fault?

Catch up with our Experts in Part 2, where they discuss the role and responsibility of advertising, so-called ‘health’ foods and offer practical advice on how to curb the obesity epidemic.

Discover the Experts other articles here:

– Expert Polly Hale
– Expert Carolina Brooks
– Expert Julie Meek
– Expert Sinead Loughnane

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