Overconsumption of sugar is a major problem facing both the U.K. and the United States that causes obesity, dental health problems, diabetes, and heart disease. Recently, a group of leading worldwide health experts formed Action on Sugar, a group dedicated to educating the public on the health risks of sugar consumption and what they deem as “unnecessary” amounts of sugar in food and beverages. This group’s efforts have been welcomed in the U.K. by the British Dental Health Foundation.
Sugar and Obesity
The U.S. and the U.K. have very high obesity rates among developed nations with the United States holding the number one spot. Approximately 60 percent of adults in the U.K. are overweight or obese along with 68.8 percent of adults in the U.S. and about one third of children and adolescents in both countries are overweight or obese. Recent statistics also show that one third of adolescents show visible signs of tooth decay. Dental health problems and diet related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease that are caused by sugar overconsumption cost the NHS billions of dollars a year in health care.
Goal of Action on Sugar
The main focus of Action on Sugar will be to run a public health campaign similar to the model used by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), in which they hope to develop a program that will set targets to gradually reduce the amount of sugar added to food and drinks. This model used by CASH became a successful nutritional policy within the U.K. that set targets to gradually reduce the amount of salt in food over time and Action on Sugar hopes to accomplish the same with sugar. According to their health experts, a 20 to 30 percent reduction in added sugar over a timeframe of 3-5 years, which they think is achievable, could reduce daily calorie intake by up to 100 calories. They believe this could help reverse the obesity epidemic and help improve dental health.
Action on Sugar Welcomed
Dr. Nigel Carter OBE, the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation welcomes the efforts of Action on Sugar, “Health professionals have long held the opinion that sugar is addictive, and it is pleasing to see so many leading health experts come together to tackle the problem.” He continues, “Consuming too many sugary foods and drinks can potentially increase the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay. The increase in consumption of sugary drinks is one of the key reasons for tooth decay.”
A global expert advisor of Action on Sugar and emeritus professor Aubrey Sheiham from the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, University College London, comments on the need for nutritional policy, “Free sugars are the main cause of the most common disease in the world; dental caries. If any dietary product were to cause decay of any other part of the body, it would have been severely controlled. Yet sugars decay the hardest human tissue – teeth – and very little is done about controlling sugars. Therefore, policies should be formulated to develop products, such as baby foods and other food products and drinks that have no added sugars.”