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Parents urged to cut sugary drinks from children’s diets

PHE makes recommendation after report calls for dietary sugar intake to be halved

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 17 July 2015

Public Health England (PHE) has called on parents and families to cut sugary drinks from their children’s daily diet, after independent nutrition experts say the country consumes too much sugar, leading to major health consequences.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) final report on carbohydrates and health, published today, recommends that the amount of sugars people consume as part of their daily calorie intake is halved from 10% to 5%. The report also recommends that consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is minimised and fibre increased.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE, said: “One-fifth of 10 to 11 year olds are obese and almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and sugary drinks are a major contributor. There is nothing good about a sugary drink, particularly if you are under the age of 11, and we must work together to find ways to wean ourselves from the sugar habit.”

Professor Brian Ratcliffe, Emeritus Professor of Nutrition, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, said: “The recommendations to limit free sugars to 5% of energy intake and to aim for 30 g per day for dietary fibre reflect the accumulating evidence that added sugars contribute to excessive energy intakes leading to weight gain and obesity, and that higher intakes of dietary fibre are associated with better health and life expectancy. This is a welcome contribution to clarifying recommendations for public health nutrition."

SACN’s findings are the first wide ranging look at the relationship between sugar consumption and health outcomes in the UK since the 1990s. The report found consuming sugary drinks is leading to unhealthy weight gain in children and young people. For children, too much sugar is linked with a greater risk of tooth decay. In adults, it leads to them consuming too many calories.

Figures from the national diet and nutrition survey, referenced in the SACN report, found sugary drinks to be the highest contributor of sugars to the diet of 4 to 10 year olds. They consume: 30% from soft drinks and fruit juice, 29% mainly from biscuits, cakes and breakfast cereals, 22% from sweets, chocolate, table sugar, jams and other sweet spreads, and 12% from yoghurts, fromage frais, ice-cream, and other dairy desserts.

When SACN published its draft report in June 2014, PHE embarked on a review of possible measures to reduce sugar consumption, including reformulation, marketing and promotions of high-sugar food and drink, and fiscal measures, looking at the impact they could have. The government has asked PHE to use the evidence from this review to advise on actions it could take to lower sugar consumption, informing its wider obesity and diabetes strategy. PHE is finalising this evidence review and will publish it later this summer.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "More needs to be done to help consumers make a healthier choice. Manufacturers must follow the example of retailers by introducing traffic light labelling, so it's obvious how much sugar products contain especially those aimed at children. Retailers can also do more by ensuring they act responsibly when promoting items that are high in sugar."

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