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  • Writer's pictureStudents for Global Health UCL

The UK: Our Sugar Problem

2015 has seen the war against sugar come to the forefront of the public health agenda in the UK. From the Change for Life ‘sugar swap’ campaign through to lobbying by TV celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, action to fight our sugar consumption cannot be ignored! Just last week the BMJ published a series of articles debating the sugar tax. So why is sugar reduction so important?

Well most of us are consuming way beyond our recommended amount of sugar. The WHO recommends that less than 10% of our calorie intake should come from ‘free sugars’, yet currently we are consuming at least twice as much as this limit. Advice issued recently recommends that children over 11 and adults consume no more than 7 teaspoons of sugar a day (i.e. 30g) which is equal to LESS than a single can of coke (containing 39g)!

In fact, our crazy levels of consumption are leading to some seriously damaging health problems. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, dental caries and diabetes all of which are placing a huge burden on the NHS. Treating obesity and its related diseases alone costs the NHS an estimated £5.1bn a year. Thus sugar reduction campaigns would not only save many people from obesity related illness’ but would also save the NHS a serious amount of money! 

So what is being done about this issue? Well a report by the parliamentary health committee published on the 30th November stated that many methods are needed to confront the problem of sugar consumption including a 20% tax on full sugar soft drinks, stronger controls on advertising as well as a reformulation programme to reduce the sugar content of food and drink. The verdict is still out on which measures will be best to address this problem but we can be sure that our nationwide sugar addiction cannot be ignored in face of the current obesity crisis!

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