Health experts demand 30% reduction in food sugar content
Sugar is the primary food and drink component which is causing havoc for Britain’s obesity crisis, health experts claim. The scientists and doctors behind ‘Action on Sugar’ - which is modelled on the 1990s group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) – are hoping to put enough pressure on the government and industry enough to help enforce as much as a 30% sugar reduction in food and drink products. Cash, chaired by Professor Graham MacGregor, who also heads Action on Sugar, managed to bring down salt levels in our food and the hope is a similar impact can be had on our sugar levels. The say that with a 20-30% reduction in sugar content, this could slash calorie intake by about 100kcal a day and this figure could be much higher for those who have a high sugar intake each day. Instead of drastically cutting sugar in one clean swoop, Action on Sugar argue for a gradual decrease in the amount of sugar within ready meals, cereals, sweets and soft drinks, as this is less likely to be noticed by the general public. Basically, it would be comparable to weaning people off sugar! Professor MacGregor says: “This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods…Provided the sugar reductions are done slowly, people won't notice. In most products in the supermarkets, the salt has come down by between 25% and 40%.” Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: “Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety. Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.” To try and ease the obesity crisis, the government's strategy so far has been to reduce targeted marketing and calorie reduction, mainly done through the public health responsibility deal. MacGregor says it is not enough though and has had little bearing on calorie intake. He says “We must start to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks.” But the food and drink industry is obviously fighting its corner and has argued it is unfair to pinpoint sugar as the cause of the obesity crisis gripping the UK. The Food and Drink Federation commented: “Sugars, or any other nutrient for that matter, consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet are not a cause of obesity, to which there is no simple or single solution. That's why the food industry has been working on a range of initiatives with other players to tackle obesity and diet-related diseases.” They also argue that consumers can clearly see the sugar content of the products they are buying, with manufacturers being forced to adhere to strict regulations for this, adding that the industry has already lowered salt and saturated fats, with little concrete proof that sugar is particularly damaging.