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Time to Take Action on Sugar During Sugar Awareness Week

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Dr Kawther Hashem: campaign Lead at Action on Sugar, and Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London

This year during Sugar Awareness Week (8-14 November) we will be raising awareness of the health impacts of consuming excess sugar (and calories).

Excess sugar intake is linked to tooth decay and increases the risk of weight gain which can mean a higher likelihood of living with overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. We, as a population from young children to older people, are exceeding our daily maximum sugar intakes by double or even three times what we should be eating.

The aim of the Sugar Awareness Week is to get people talking about the importance of reducing sugar and to encourage individuals, food and drink companies and the Government to act so we can all access and enjoy healthier food.

This year we are focussing on snacks and how they contribute to daily sugar intake. From a young age, children are getting used to the sweet taste of snack foods which influences their health in the future. Sugary snack foods are always put in the spotlight wherever we go using colourful packaging, cartoons, misleading and distracting claims, advertising, price promotions, sports sponsorships and optimal placement in supermarkets at store entrances, checkouts and end-of-aisle.

These are all areas the Government can act upon to encourage food and drink companies to do the right thing and help us and our children eat and nourish our bodies better. Action on Sugar is strongly advocating for this to happen, but until then, the food and drink industry should be doing more to reduce sugar and to provide healthier options.

As for individuals and healthcare professionals, there is plenty we can do too. We can challenge companies and government to take purposeful action to facilitate a healthier food and drink environment.

We would also encourage patients to scrutinise products they regularly buy – checking the sugar levels and ignoring health halo claims such as ‘no added sugar’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘naturally occurring sugars’ and other claims.

Sugars come in many clever disguises using ingredient names that essentially mean the product contains added sugar or free sugars (e.g. those sugars released by processing fruit). The easiest way to know if a product contains too much sugar is to choose products with front of pack colour-coded labelling. The red, amber and green can help you, at a glance, review the total sugar content. If a food or drink is red or even amber for sugars, then double check the ingredients and try to stick to a daily intake of 19g for young children, and 30g for those over 11 years old.

During Sugar Awareness Week 2021, however hard they try, we will not let food and drink companies hide the reality of the ingredients inside of their products.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

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