An alarming amount of over two million tonnes of sugar are consumed in the UK every year. The majority of people understand that eating too many sweets, cakes and biscuits is not good for you. Some food and drinks, however contain a surprising amount of sugar, which means you may be eating more than you actually think and could be putting your health at risk.
Sugar added in foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, tinned fruit, vegetables and sauces help to extend the shelf life. Some brown and wholemeal breads can be made with the equivalent amount of sugar as white bread. Even some foods which you may think are healthy i.e. low fat yoghurt and snacks, cereal bars and flavoured water may actually be providing much more sugar than you are aware of.
When fat is removed from low fat processed meals and ‘diet’ foods, often sugar is added to enhance taste and disguise blandness.
Dangers of hidden sugars
If excess amounts of sugar are consumed, then the body responds by the liver converting the excess into fat. As a consequence the fat is then stored around the body, which can then lead to weight gain, obesity, as well as increasing the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Increased dental problems can also occur. Acids, which dissolve tooth enamel, are produced, as bacteria present in the mouth feed readily on sugar rich foods. Official recommendation is that added sugars should make up no more that 5% of your daily calorie intake.
Children are at risk
According to a recent survey (National Diet and Nutrition Survey) by Public Health England (PHE), children in England are consuming double the amount of sugar than recommended. The survey revealed that 4-10 year olds diet contained 13.5 % sugar and 11-18 year olds 14.1%. It is thought that sugary soft drinks, snacks, cakes and pastries were the main causes. Figures also show that a third of primary school children enter secondary school overweight or obese and approximately 25% of 5 year olds suffer with tooth decay problems.
Clearly these figures are alarming. In April in the UK a sugar tax on soft drinks came into force, some manufacturers reacted by reducing the sugar content of their drinks. PHE recommends that fruit juices and smoothies with no added sugar should also be limited for children (150 ml per day).If these are consumed in large quantities they can still effect sugar intake due to naturally occurring sugars. Current advice is that children should have no more than the equivalent of 5-6 cubes of a day.
Be sugar aware
It is quite confusing to know how much sugar you are actually eating, as it can appear on labelling in many different forms, i.e. sucrose, glucose, fructose and honey. Added sugars are not displayed separately on nutrition labels, as is not a legal requirement. Looking at the carbohydrate section (of which total sugars) will tell you how much total sugar is in a food product. Reducing the amount of foods containing a high sugar content – more than 15 g of total sugars per 100g and choosing foods with a low sugar content – less than 5g of total sugars per 100g is advisable.