It was during the 2012 United Nations World Health Assembly that the world’s health experts promoted and advocated a brand new health goal- to significantly reduce avoidable deaths from non-transmitted, non-communicable diseases down 25% by the year 2025. According to survey, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes Type 2, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases kill at least 35 million people each year.
Primary causes or risk factors of these medical conditions are identified as tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol ingestion, and poor, unhealthy eating behavior. Tobacco and alcohol are two risk factors that have been successfully regulated by governments from around the world as an effective means to promote and protect public health. An unhealthy diet on the other hand has been shown to be the more dangerous risk factor than tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption combined.
It is due to these findings that health experts are carefully assessing what component or element of the Western Diet should be modified. Experts have arrived at a consensus that unnecessary addition of sugar should be targeted and should be removed from our daily diet. Unlike fat and protein, refined sugar does not bring any nutritional value to the table. Contrary to popular belief, the body does not need carbohydrate from added sugar for energy. With this in mind, we have come to the realization that added, unrefined sugar is completely useless and should not be a part of our daily nutritional intake.
Sugar is a vital ingredient to many dishes prepared not only in the United Kingdom, but the rest of the globe. Customers are oblivious to the vast amount of unnecessary sugars included in their meals. As the recommended daily intake of sugar has not been updated in Europe since 2003, it is assumed that the average person still consumes up to 22 teaspoons of sugar on a daily basis.
According to the World Health Organization and world-renowned health experts, the consumption of added sugar, more specifically, non-milk extrinsic sugar should only contribute up to 5% of our energy needs. Given this value, an average adult male should only consume a maximum of eight teaspoons a day whilst the average adult female should only consume a maximum of 5 teaspoons daily. These values already include sugars sources from fruits and honey.
One misleading information about low-fat food items is also considered a culprit in the overconsumption of sugars. Surprisingly, those food items labeled as low-fat contains high levels of sugars. This report has prompted many health experts from around the globe to wage a war against consumption of unhealthy sources of sugar. One program called the Action on Sugar aims to influence as well as pressure the food industry to significantly reduce the inclusion of refined sugars in their food items by as much as 40% in the next four years. This reduction in processed sugars translates to 100 fewer calories per person. The Action on Sugar in the UK aims to reverse the growing obesity epidemic in the British Isles.
The food industry vehemently denies their contribution in the growing obesity epidemic in the UK. Director of regulation, Barbara Gallan of the Food and Drink Federation addressed resistance in this program, and denies the food industry’s role in promoting obesity despite the numerous scientific studies. It took almost fifty years for legislation to pass regulations in the production and distribution of tobacco cigarettes, despite the thousands of studies that linked tobacco smoking to lung cancer. Just like the big tobacco companies, major food companies are utilizing the strategy of denial to slow down the passing of regulation pertaining to the inclusion of sugars in food manufacturing. Combined with planting doubt, deceiving the public, bribery of political allies, and buying loyalty of scientists, the food industry successfully dodges the implementation of regulations regarding the use of refined sugars.
Why can’t the food industry agree with latest research about the bad effects of sugars? Simply put, they have been spending billions in the production as well as in the advertising of junk food and sugar-filled drinks. They have successfully targeted the most vulnerable group in society- the children. What is more sinister is that they have successful associated the consumption of these sugary drinks and junk food to sports and fitness. For instance, Mars is the official sponsor of the England football team. Bear in mind that one regular-sized bar of chocolate contains up to eight teaspoons of sugar, people still patronized its purchase and intake. Concerned citizens should also bear in mind the fact that the most common cause of pain children- that which is tooth decay- is primarily caused by overconsumption of processed sugars. Although daily exercise delivers a wide range of health benefits, its effect on long-term weight loss is found to be ineffective and weak. Lastly, activity levels have changed drastically in the past three decades, that which contributes to increasing number of obese individuals.
Overweight and obese individuals are not the only one directly affected by diet-related diseases. Of all the chronic, debilitating conditions, it is perhaps Diabetes Type-2, a preventable condition that is considered to be the most damaging. Diabetes Type-2 diagnosis increases an individual’s risk of developing other serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure to name a few. Almost 50% of diabetics suffer from short-term and long-term chronic pain, whilst two thirds of people suffering from Diabetes Type 2 develop dementia in later stages of life. It is estimated that the direct and indirect cost of diabetes is now at £24bn and is expected to rise up to £40bn by 2030.
Now if we compare the effects between sugar and tobacco, we find the following results. A teaspoon or sugar or one stick of tobacco cigarette does not have negative effects on health. Long-term use however translates to obesity and other diet-related illnesses among children. Added sugar is extremely pervasive within our society that it is difficult to avoid even if we wanted to. The most disturbing fact is that even when there is raised awareness of the negative health effects of added sugar consumption, the food industry simply hides behind its financial and political muscles, enabling them to protect their income at the expense of our health and that of future generations. It’s time to raise awareness and follow a healthier lifestyle. The first step towards change is by becoming an example to the younger generation. Eat well and the world will change for the better.