/ Food & Drink

Is life too sweet at times?

Sugar on spoon

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) draft report on carbohydrates and health published last week should be a wake-up call to the Government, food industry and consumers.

The SACN report made it clear that as a population we consume too much sugar and too little fibre. Its draft advice is for the population to lower consumption of free sugars (those added to foods and naturally present in syrups and unsweetened juices) to around 5% of daily energy intake. This means 5-6 teaspoons a day for a woman and 7-8 teaspoons for a man.

Across all population groups, we are failing to meet the current advice, let alone this stricter target. More specifically, SACN recommended that the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, such as fizzy drinks and squash be minimised in both children and adults.

Apart from the serious health consequences, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers linked to weight gain and tooth decay, there are enormous economic costs. Overweight and obesity is estimated to cost the NHS £4.7 billion per year and tooth decay £3.4 billion. Public Health England is now assessing what measures can be taken to reduce sugar intakes.

Too much sugar and too little fibre

Discussions through the Responsibility Deal have been ongoing but not enough progress has been made on this important issue. While there is a calorie reduction pledge, which 39 companies have signed up to, it is vaguely worded and leaves it to individual companies to determine the level of action they want to take – whether reformulation of their products or information initiatives. More specific action is now needed on sugar in several key areas, addressing both the breadth of companies committed to act and the scale of action they take.

Much clearer industry-wide reduction targets are needed across the key product categories that contribute free sugars to most people’s diets. This includes soft drinks, confectionery, biscuits, cakes and breakfast cereals for example. These should be developed in a similar way to the salt reduction targets, encouraging incremental reductions while taking account of quality and taste.

A much more concerted effort is also needed to tackle promotions. This includes looking at the balance of products that are included in supermarket price and other in-store promotions, but also making sure that there is a much more responsible approach to marketing to children, including teenagers. This is the group that consumes 50% more sugar than is recommended on average, with soft drinks the largest single source.

All population groups are eating too much sugar and much more needs to be done to help people reduce their intake and ultimately tackle the obesity crisis. This includes a far more ambitious approach to the Responsibility Deal, with greater direction from the Government to ensure meaningful change.

While information alone will never be enough, it is now clearly time for those manufacturers who have yet to commit to using traffic light labelling to adopt the national scheme and make it much clearer to people which products are high in sugar.

This post first appeared on The Grocer.

Comments
Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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http://www.sacn.gov.uk/reports_position_statements/reports/scientific_consultation_draft_sacn_carbohydrates_and_health_report_-_june_2014.html

For your copy of the 366 page report .

There may be a suspicion that the amount of money spent on advertising is actually the main cause of over-consumption of food and perhaps it would be more sensible to ban the TV advertising of food products. TV advertising is by far the most insidious means of encouraging extra eating and banning it is perhaps the quickest and easiest method – and which I suspect would get much public support..

I see from “The Grocer” this quote and I wondered if one graphed advertising time/type to growth it may be a very close match.

“Yet energy drinks continue to grow in sales. Despite being loaded with significantly more sugar than regular pop in some cases, sales of sports & energy drinks have surged 8% in value and volume [IRI 52 w/e 29 March].”

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Kess says:
6 July 2014

If I’m going to buy *bad* food I want it sweet. It’s bad for a reason. However when I want to buy *good* healthy food I don’t want it packed with sugar. Bread for example. Why add so much sugar?
There is also the same sugar in a can of coke and a bottle of Smoothy. We have been so brainwashed into believing what is and what is not healthy we have been conned.
I am all for less sugar but I find it being taken out of sweet puddings but not out of bread and what not.
I don’t buy some of sainsburys naughties anymore as they are bland and quite frankly for the price why should I not get what I pay for?
I don’t buy bread either as my partner can’t tolerate the sugars.
Obesity is not caused by sugar, it is caused by being misinformed as what is and isn’t healthy (ie low fat foods = good = more sugar added=lack of education) and a lack of support for those with emotional problems.
(I am overweight but understand why and it’s not because of being lazy)
If you want to tackle the so called obesity crises (Most people are overweight at some point in their lives not obese)
Then get activities back in school and longer play times. ( I hated PE because it was only ever sports. Get me in the gym or swimming and I love it)
Lets tackle the fact that sugar is being added to everything where it isn’t supposed to be.
If you eat a massive choco pudding you should understand it has massive calories and therefore consequences. It’s not rocket science.
But understanding and re learning everything you have been taught is!

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Kess says:
6 July 2014

On a last note, can we please also tackle the fact that the overweight epidemic is not confined to white poor people. I live in a very multicultural area and I can assure it is not what the media says it is but they dare not address it for fear of offending.

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Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

Kess, good point about sugar in “healthy” smoothies, but advertising is to blame. When a “healthy” drink is advertised as “75% pure juice and 25% spring water” (whatever “spring” water is – just water, I guess), why is it not 75% of the price of juice, but more likely to be double that? Advertising!

Profile photo of simona sonei
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I agree with you that everything is about lack of education and information. Why we cannot have a simple life and a simple lifestyle, based on how the life it was 100 years ago…SIMPLE.

Profile photo of Figgerty
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I have been eating a Waitrose Essential fruit & fibre cereal for years and chopping up some extra fruit with it as part of my 5 a day. I only recently discovered the cereal was almost 30% sugar, not surprising that I have not lost an ounce no matter what else I cut out or reduced. I am now having a granola with yogourt and this is 17% sugar. I never once thought quite a plain. not sweet, cereal could contain so much sugar. Kellogs fruit & fibre contains 24% sugar so by buying own brand I was having over 5% sugar. Until recently, I only worried about the fat content. Now, I spend my time reading the labels for all but food in it’s natural state. I resent having to do this as my trip to the shops takes longer.

I think the Government should now ‘encourage’ manufacturers to drastically reduce the sugar content in our daily food and drink and monitor closely what they replace it with.

Profile photo of terfar
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I wish that they would include weight as well as teaspoons. Yes we all have teaspoons, but have you seen the variety of sizes and shapes? There is no law that forces a teaspoon to hold an exact quantity of sugar – so weight should be mandatory.

It is definitely the manufacturers that need to take greater responsibility for the ingredients in food. Processed food is often loaded with sugar. Soup, baked beans, sweet corn, salad dressings are just a few of the most unexpected foods to find loaded with sugar.

Think: would you put sugar in your own home made soup or salad dressing. You just can’t trust any processed food.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The recommendation is to limit the combined daily intake of added sugars and those that are present in the ingredients, so it is not very easy to work out what your sugar intake is.

Profile photo of theslipperystick
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A teaspoon is, I believe, an accepted measure. 5ml in liquid. In the US it’s 1/48 of a cup, whatever that is! And then we get into level or heaped. Clear as mud!

Profile photo of dave newcastle
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It is not necessary to go round food shops with calculators. If you are gaining the pounds just stop eating between meal times and cut down on portion sizes. Weigh yourself once a fortnight. If you are still gaining weight start taking more exercise eg brisk walking or biking and ditch the car. One of the most interesting cases I came across as a GP was a grossly obese chap who specialised in eating fish and chips and chip sandwiches. He rapidly lost stones when his partner broke a leg and he had to push her around in a wheel chair for many weeks.

The government needs to legislate to ban processed foods which have excessive sugar or fat. Stopping access to high calorie processed foods is likely help obese people reduce weight and avoid type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This in turn will enable a free at the point of need NHS to continue.

Profile photo of terfar
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Precisely my point. Tell us in grams so that we can all understand!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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But can many people estimate the weight, in grams, of sugar thay might add to their tea, for example? And how many of us will add up all the sugar we eat in a day to see whether we are within “limits”?

Profile photo of terfar
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A valid point that misses my point. Everybody’s teaspoons are different sizes and shapes, even though there is a regulation size for teaspoons. So instead of having to guess a level, rounded, quarter, half or heaped teaspoon, or a pinch of salt, please give us the weight. The weight is accurate, the teaspoon fraction isn’t.

It’s like driving to the garage that sells fuel by the tankful. A meaningless measurement because everyone’s vehicles have different sized tanks. So it’s regulated to be sold by the litre.

Let’s be precise and stop dumbing down. People aren’t idiots.

Profile photo of simona sonei
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Is not up to manufacturer is up to you

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Erik99 says:
14 July 2014

Teaspoons or grams, you can’t tell how much sugar there is in, for example, a biscuit or a glass of juice – unless you weigh it and multiply that by the percentage of sugar declared on the packet. Who has the time, inclination or energy to do that for everything they eat and drink in a day? And if they did, wouldn’t you think that was just a bit obsessive? In brief, advising us to cut down to 5 teaspoonfuls of sugar a day is pretty meaningless.

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Baddad says:
14 July 2014

Not entirely.
My local Lidl has 3 different types of curry powders, namely Tikka, Tandoori & Korma. All list sugar and salt as major ingredients.
Neither of these ingredients are necessary or desirable in curry powder which Good Housekeeping defines as a blend of many spices–cayenne coriander turmeric cumin ginger mace clove cardamoms fenugreek and pepper. very distinctive flavour the Heat depending on the blend.
No Salt No sugar
Why do supermarkets find it necessary to add these unhealthy items without warning?
Its salt and sugar by stealth, so not all the fault of the consumer.
Caveat emptor (buyer beware)
Maybe it should be beware all blended ingredients

Profile photo of John Ward
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A new word has entered the lexicon: Obesogenic. I saw this in a news item about a recent study of the tendency of TV programmes aimed at – or popular with – a child audience to show unhealthy food products. Apparently, children in the “situations” featured in the programmes are frequently shown eating or drinking products containing high sugar levels [as well as products containing a lot of salt or lacking in fibre or nutrients]. Given that there are restrictions on what can be advertised during the commecial breaks during children’s television programmes, the report made me wonder whether the manufacturers are able to exert any influence – whether covertly or even by direct corruption – over the scenarios appearing in TV programmes so that a new kind of “product placement” is occurring. It seems these images of happy children enjoying a bottle of fizzy pop have quite a powerful motivational efffect and lead to considerable pester power so that young viewers can emulate the characters they see on screen. The report said that this tendency prevails because we live in an “obesogenic environment”.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The word ‘obesogenic’ had not registered with me, possibly because its meaning is fairly obvious. I have no idea how long it has been in common use but it has been used in over 1000 scientific papers since 1998.

In years gone by we had home-made jam and marmalade that contained even more sugar than modern supermarket offerings and plenty of high-fat food too. Fizzy drinks always contained sugar rather than sweeteners. I am convinced that the growing obesity problem is mainly due to the amount of food we consume rather than what it contains. Eating out has become much more common and some of the portion sizes are huge. We do indeed live in an obesogenic environment.

Profile photo of theslipperystick
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It’s the same game as used to be played by the cigarette manufacturers (some would say still is being played).

Profile photo of John Ward
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Thank you Wavechange for enlightening me on the academic history of the word “obesogenic”. I thought it was fresh out of the box.

Perhaps its current usage in the public domain represents a shift of meaning. The scientific usage would be paralell to “carcinogenic” [i.e. with a tendency towards the development of a condition – cancer in the case of “carcinogenic” and obesity in the case of “obesogenic”], but I sense that the phrase “obesogenic environment” relates not so much to the agent or substance that has the particular properties as to the culture or circumstances within which it becomes active. Mind you, I used to think the top decks of buses were the epitome of a carcinogenic environment.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I think you are right John. It is not uncommon for the everyday and scientific meaning of words to differ.

I wonder how much the decline in smoking has contributed to obesity. I have never smoked but I understand that one of the reasons for its popularity was to avoid gaining weight.

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Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

And the same applies to alcoholic drinks. How many times during an episode of any of the soaps do we see somebody drinking a very large glass of wine, when a few years ago it would be a nice cup of tea? Is there any chance of a public information request to find how much the scriptwriters or producers get as payback from the manufacturers?

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Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

Wavechange, we also used to exercise more – walking instead of driving, etc. – thus keeping fitter and slimmer. As to home-made jam, if anyone else still makes it, try using half sugar (or even less) to fruit, rather than equal weight – you may well find you like it just as much, or more than the high-sugar version.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I agree Erik. We often complain about kids not getting enough exercise but the same applies to many adults.

The problem with cutting down the sugar content of jam is that it can go mouldy, even if kept in the fridge.

Profile photo of terfar
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Hi Wavechage

I’ve found references to obesogenic even earlier:

1970 July 1, Jimmie Holland; Joseph Masling, Donald Copley, “Mental Illness in Lower Class Normal, Obese and Hyperobese Women”, Psychosomatic Medicine, volume 32, page 351-357: 

Some authors have characterized the so-called obesogenic family and have observed the similarity between this kind of family constellation and that of the schizophrenic patient

Profile photo of wavechange
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Well done Terfar. The database I use does cover this journal but missed this article since I only did a quick topic search. I guess you found this from a search for the meaning of the term.

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Erik99 says:
14 July 2014

Reduced-sugar jam – yes, keep it in the frig and don’t make too much at a time. We don’t have a problem on that basis. And do make sure the jars and lids are clean, so that you don’t introduce mould when you pot it up.

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Malc.Moore says:
27 August 2014

Hi Erik Can I suggest If you have not got the time to make your own Jam to try Streamline Its the best Jam more fruit and less Sugar If you have not tried It!.

Profile photo of theslipperystick
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There is an assumption that sugar is sugar is sugar, and of course that just is not the case. The body deals with different forms of sugar in different ways and therein lies the problem. The widespread use of high fructose corn syrup helps the food companies bottom line profits to grow even higher but is a major factor in the massive increases in obesity and type2 diabetes. In a similar way, fat is all grouped together and is seen as ‘bad’ in the diet. Not so, of course. Salt is salt is salt. Er, no that’s not the case either and even water is water is water need treating the same way. You are being misled and you are being misinformed. Time for some changes!

Profile photo of wavechange
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High fructose corn syrup is not a major component of food in the UK, though it is in the US. The SACN draft report does look at this issue. If you are going to condemn HFCS then you also need to condemn fructose, which is the sugar that naturally occurs in many fruits.

The main thing we need to do is to avoid consuming much food that contains added sugar or is high in natural sugars.

Profile photo of dave newcastle
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Wavechange, I agree but we also need to bear in mind that table sugar ie sucrose has a molecule consisting of a glucose unit linked to a fructose unit and it is split into these two sugars once in the mouth so in effect table sugar is 50% fructose! I believe the current situation is that there is uncertainty as to which is worse-too much glucose or too much fructose. It is possible that too much of either predisposes to vascular disease and type 2 diabetes. So for those who must have lots of sugar the sensible advice is burn it off with lots of exercise.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Dave – I used to lecture on carbohydrate chemistry and the biochemical reactions that occur in the metabolism of sugars. Most of the food we eat – including sucrose and fructose – can be converted into blood glucose.

What you say about exercise is absolutely right. I’m just back from a two week holiday in which I ate considerably more than I normally do, but I was much more active than I normally am. As with every other active summer holiday I have had in the last 35 years I have not put on any weight. In contrast, I tend to gain weight over Christmas holidays, especially when the weather is poor and not conducive to going out and getting exercise.

Going back to the biochemistry, eating a lot of refined carbohydrate such as starch is not good because it is metabolised rapidly to produce glucose. One of the reasons why vegetables are useful in our diet is because they are broken down more slowly than starch.

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Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

Martin, I take your point about different sugars and fats – pretty common knowledge nowadays – but salt is Sodium chloride, surely, and water is H2O. I have seen a claim on the net that microwaved water has been “proved” to be worse for you than conventionally boiled, but I didn’t believe it – unless you know better?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I’ve lost track of the “advice” on how to lead a healthy life. Advice that seems to continually change so loses some of its impact. Fruit and veg goes from 3 to 5 to 7 a day (who actually achieves this?). Recommended sugar intake has halved (I think); who is going to calculate whether they are eating 5 teaspoons of it a day?
Information as to what is proven to be harmful is welcome – an extreme example being smoking. Reducing or eliminating potentially harmful ingredients – e.g. preservatives, colourants, artificial flavours, the bad fats, – in manufactured foods is also good, as are the warning colours.
I have sympathy with Dave Newcastle’s post above that by monitoring your weight you can decide whether to change part of your diet – you will know if you are overeating or having too much of the wrong foods – and/or get more exercise. Some degree of common sense needs to be applied.
For me, I enjoy eating, including a little wine, chocolate, toast and dripping, butter and cream, chips, sugar on porridge, biscuits, cake…… But I like to think I do all these things in moderation and have a varied diet with a reasonable mix of fruit and vegetables. No calculator used. We have to be practical about what people will actually do to look after their heath.

Profile photo of wavechange
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The only sensible way to avoid preservatives is not to eat foods containing them – e.g. bacon, sausages and cooked ham. They are there to prevent food becoming unsafe to eat, whereas colours and flavours are only there to make food more palatable. Preservatives used for treatment of meats are linked to increase incidence of bowel cancer, in the same way that smoking increases the likelihood of respiratory diseases.

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Erik99 says:
11 July 2014

Fruit and veg – recommendations have increased partly because the soils they are grown in have less and less nutrient value – and some are not even grown in soil. I understand also that somewhere (Japan?) recommends ten a day. Seems to me the moral is: eat as much fruit and veg as you can.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I believe that the main reason – and the one highlighted in the SACN draft report – is the need to eat more non-digestible carbohydrates, often referred to as fibre. Some of these are broken down by bacteria in the gut and have an impact on gut flora. This is important because modern processed food does not provide adequate non-digestible carbohydrate.

Whatever the reason, there seems to be little doubt that eating plenty of veg is a good idea. Unfortunately some fruit is absolutely loaded with sugars, so it is only good if eaten in moderation.

Profile photo of Beryl
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It’s always interesting to learn about the different sugars in our food. Slow energy release foods contained in wholegrains such as barley, oats, brown rice, wholemeal bread etc can help to resist the chances of snacking between meals by keeping you fuller for longer, preventing the peaks and troughs that high glycemic foods like sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and smoothies can cause.
Trouble is, manufacturers have a way of disguising high glycemic sweeteners by using names that the uninitiated such as myself [like maltodextrone, dextrose, maltose, and sucrose] find it hard to distinguish the unhealthy from the healthy.

I don’t see very much referral to the addictive element of high glycemic sweeteners however, as with that contained in the almost ‘forbidden’ word [for some people] alcohol. Recent studies carried out by scientists at the Karalinska Institute in Sweden reveal how alcohol may cause exaggerated insulin secretion resulting in severe hypoglycaemia. While moderate amounts can cause blood sugar [and weight gain] to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level by blocking your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, sometimes causing it to drop to dangerous levels [hypoglycaemia]. Also alcohol can stimulate appetite which causes you to over-eat and may affect your blood sugar control.

The energy sugar surge in high glycemic sweeteners can produce a short quick high energy release only to cause you to crash down again leaving you needing more and more to satisfy the craving putting more strain on the pancreas to secrete more insulin and possibly eventually type 2 diabetes.

Exercise can help as has been suggested. The only problem I find with exercise is, the more I exercise the more hungry I become and end up eating more but I do try to resist the temptation to go for the ‘quick sugar fix’ snack. Having said that I try to limit my intake of the high glycemic foods as much as possible to the occasional treat, but admit that it needs a lot of self discipline but the rewards are enjoying reasonably good health in my later years without the need to swallow numerous pills.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Maltodextrin is effectively short chains of starch

Dextrose is another name for glucose

Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide consisting of one glucose and one fructose unit

Maltose is a disaccharide consisting of two glucose units

Avoid these if possible and stick to the wholegrains that you have suggested.

It is best if you can train yourself to avoid eating much sweet food, but sweeteners such as stevia will provide sweetness without affecting your blood sugar.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

Very interesting article. Reassuring to see how long it has been used in other cultures and countries. Also that the EU and the USA , homes of substantial sugar beet/sugar cane industries, were late adopters of stevia.

I am slightly concerned that we in the West may take on far more stevia – in a variety of foods – than the South American natives ever could.

Profile photo of wavechange
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One of the reasons we are late adopters of stevia has been concerns about its safety, thanks to the widespread concerns about other artificial sweeteners. Some of these are valid but I think it is fair to say that the concerns are excessive. The safety of stevia has been extensively investigated and it seems to be the best of the bunch. Unlike sugars, sweeteners provide little energy but in the western world, most of us are overeating anyway.

I cannot relate to the craving for sugar that Beryl has mentioned, though this is well documented. I wonder what happens if sugar is replaced by sweetener.

As I see it, one of the problems with sweeteners is that they do nothing to overcome our passion for sweet food and drink.

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Lessismore says:
9 July 2014

If you have been living on manufactured meals then you will find it difficult to overcome a passion for the food and drink that is constantly being advertised. All those complicated to make puddings ready to just serve up. All those treats now available for the instant or fairly instant gratification of your desire.

You need to pull back and try to eat more simply. Then you really will realise how oversweet many ready-made foods are. The same happens with salt.

Also just look at the vegetables that are now being grown – supersweet sweetcorn – for instance. If it wasn’t sweet enough because we now have an ever growing craving for sweetness.

Try enjoying fresh fruit with plain yoghourt. There is still sweetness there and compare it with a ready made fruit yoghourt where there is sugar added. If you need add a little stevia. You can reduce the amount that you add until you don’t need it any more.

I once bought an M&S primavera pasta sauce to try out and found it inedible due to the amount of salt. I added more and more and more frozen peas until I had added a whole packet.

If you make your own food from scratch you can avoid the salt and sugar that you can’t take out.

I now always steam my vegetables and a lot of them are naturally sweet without salt and taste so much better. It does make me rather fussy about eating out at restaurants. They have to be good!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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A sweet tooth can be controlled – I used to take 4 sugars in a cup of tea, sugar in coffee, and eat sweetened condensed milk (as examples of indulgence). Sugar masks flavour in many cases – so tea and coffee are now sweet-free, as I weaned myself off them.
We have the option of examining many food products we propose buying from shops to see if we like the ingredients – including salt, sugar and fat content. No such option when you eat in restaurants or buy from take-aways. Will we have traffic lights imposed on these menus in future?

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
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mr- I sincerely hope not!

However to an extent this has been anticipated at one high class restaurant in the US where you can choose which menu you read. So for those who are really keen on the amounts of carbs etc you can get the breakdown, and those who see it as nice escapist treat there is the traditional menu.

Taking enjoyment out of life by reminding people continually of things they ought to do is not I think that helpful if you are trying to engender a generally happier population.!!

Profile photo of malcolm r
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dt, I hope not too. Life is too short not to be enjoyed.
We certainly need to help people who are quite unable to control their weight by themselves; for others, they are surely aware when they are overindulging and are accepting the consequences. Their choice. The problem is how we deal with overloading the health service because of their lifestyles. But this applies to other groups – those who abuse alcohol, drugs, indulge in dangerous sports, who also use police and rescue resources. Perhaps we should all take out insurance to cover the cost (er, is NI not there for that?); or do we penalise individuals?
Incidentally, I’ve solved the cost of the prison service. Simply charge those with resources the cost of their keep. This is off topic in a big way, but it might free up more resources for the health service to help people with obesity?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I weaned myself off salt in cooking twenty or thirty years ago, though I still use a little on some foods at the table. One of the consequences of cutting down my salt intake has been that bought food, particularly soup, tastes much more salty than I remember.

I hate most sweet drinks, probably because my mother deliberately discouraged me from having sugar in tea or coffee and bought lemonade etc only at Christmas. In contrast, I can happily eat very sweet food such as mango, biscuits and Christmas pudding.

Fast food and pub chains area already providing nutritional information.

Profile photo of wavechange
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We have often been told that many people are unaware that they have diabetes and I have wondered why adults don’t routinely have their blood sugar checked when they have routine blood tests. When having a sample taken for routine blood tests this morning I was told that the practice is now including the HbA1c test, which provides a historical indication of how well our bodies are managing blood glucose, and is therefore more useful than a periodic fasting test.

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Erik99 says:
14 July 2014

Routine blood tests? Who has those? I can’t imagine many GPs in the NHS wanting to do it.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have blood tests and medication checks, and am unable to request a repeat prescription without at least booking an appointment. The blood tests could give a warning of a serious condition and the fact that I’m on medication is probably the reason I have tests at least twice a year. I absolutely agree with the medication check because many people are taking unnecessary medicines, that are at best harmless and just a waste of money and at worst could cause long-term problems. I respect my GP for the regular interrogation to find out if I need my medicines, even asthma treatment I have used for 30 years. I also have an annual asthma check, which I feel is rather unnecessary now that my condition has been well managed for many years, but I understand the practice is paid to perform these checks.

There’s information on blood tests on the NHS website.

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Bazjay says:
16 July 2014

I think a decent GP will, Erik, especially if you are of a certain age, if he/she suspects it might be advisable for you, or indeed if you specifically request it. Such a test picked up raised blood sugar in my case (more on the sequel in my further posting below, if it’s of any interest).

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david wells says:
11 July 2014

Too much sugar is added in processed food i.e. ready made meals.Thankfully i rarely buy them with the exception of an occasional curry. What annoys me is why Mr. Kipling finds it necessary to load their apple pies with excessive amounts of sugar, their quite disgusting. As for Kellogs breakfast cereals in particular Fruit n’ Fibre, it’s not only exspensive but also insipid. I now buy Morrisons Fruit and Nut meusli with less sugar content and far cheaper. David Wells.

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Malc.Moore says:
31 August 2014

Its not only Mr.Kipling apple pies that are loaded with sugar and many of those like sainsburys own brand make claims of having more fruit are sugar loaded they should contain almost zero sugar then if the customer wants in sweeter he/she can add their own perhaps someone will open specialist shops putting sugar content labels that everyone can understand how much sugar is in the product.
Our government bangs on about how much obesity costs the NHS yet does zero to address the root cause of hidden amounts of sugar in food&drink.

Profile photo of terfar
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My breakfast is usually Weetabix because of its low calories and LOW sugar. Two bix – the recommended portion – has just 1.7g of sugar. With around 120ml of green top milk, that a pretty healthy breakfast. (I’ve tried red top milk but it may as well be just water!)

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So why does Weetabix think we now need versions with chocolate, golden syrup, etc? Maybe they are for people on an obesogenic diet.

Profile photo of terfar
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I guess it illustrates three points:

1. People are poorly educated in what food is healthy and nourishing.

2. Marketing trumps nutritionists: if Kelloggs (?) have or had any nutritionists on their payroll, they no longer have much influence on products.

3. Marketing is still poorly regulated: adverts often make outrageous statements about food that goes unchallenged.

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wavechange, we seem to like novelty foods, “for a change”, not thinking about the cost. This is what the manufacturers trade on to make a huge profit (why buy frosted flakes when you can put your own sugar on cornflakes? Better still, eat porridge!). I like a hot chocolate drink; much cheaper to buy cocoa powder and add an appropriate amount of sugar than buying drinking chocolate. The fault is ours for buying htis stuff.

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Nuala says:
13 July 2014

Make your own bread, slice all, keep what you need today and freeze the rest. Don’t even need a bread maker, just yourself, wholemeal flour, some white, bicarbonate if soda, buttermilk, no salt and only a couple of teaspoons sugar. Gorgeous.

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Bazjay says:
16 July 2014

Having glanced quickly through all the previous postings, I notice quite a lot of confusion as to how much sugar is too much, etc. A few years ago Which? itself issued a useful little reference card, which I still have. It suggests that 5g or less per 100g can be considered low sugar, between 5 and 15g moderate, and above 15g high. The great majority of packaged foods now give you this kind of information, and also what a typical serving provides in relation to the recommended maximum daily intake.

Since being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than six years ago and resolving there and then to improve my diet (though I was not obese and had given up sugar in tea 40 years previously), I have so far been fortunate in not having to take medication for it. I cut out added sugar straight away and lost quite a bit of weight within a few months. I find today’s range of artificial sweeteners quite acceptable (certainly compared with saccharine which was the only one available in my younger days) and without adverse effects that I’m aware of. I’m sure manufacturers could do more to use these instead of sugar (though not sorbitol etc. which Diabetes UK recommends us to beware of).

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Malc.Moore says:
27 August 2014

While waiting in the Dentist to-day they had posters up about food which was interesting when I shop i take more interest in fats from now on I shall take more interest in sugar content as well.Food labelling is still a bit of a lottery some in per 100grms some per portion.There needs to needs to be a Universal food standard that we all can read quickly of a reasonable size that we do dot need a microscope to read it.

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Don’t get so hung up on sugar.

All carbohydrates have the same effect – some are just slightly quicker than others.

Old school science experiment – put a small piece of bread in your mouth and wait whilst it gets sweeter – this is the enzymes your saliva converting starch to sugar.

The flow is:

carbohydrates -> blood glucose -> {raised insulin levels} -> fat cells.

One theory is that this is from the old days of feast and famine.
During feast, your body tucks the high energy easily processed foods away in fat stores, and then makes you hungry for more high energy food.
Rinse and repeat.
Back in the day, famine would follow and the body would switch to using stored fat, insulin levels would go down, appetite would be suppressed.

These days there is always easily processed high energy food available (to most of us – it is carbohydrate) so the mechanism for storing fat against emergencies runs out of control and sometimes eventually breaks (obesity related diabetes).

So – look at the labels and look at the ‘n% carbohydrate’ – the ‘of which x% sugar’ isn’t the only thing to watch out for.

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There are bad carbs and there are good carbs. It’s the bad carbs we should avoid or at least severely limit our intake.

Some are obvious: sugar, sucrose and their seemingly myriad of cousins given wonderful marketing names to confuse the consumer and frequently founded added to processed foods where you wouldn’t dream of finding them. Then there are others such as bread, potatoes, cereals and other highly loaded foods.

But we mustn’t cut out carbs completely: we need them. So stick to whole grain if you must eat bread or cereals, and eat good carbs, namely fruit, veggies, nuts, etc. But avoid fruit drinks: pulping fruit releases the sugar trapped in cell structure so that the body absorbs it immediately. Fruit juice is should be enjoyed in SMALL quantities, if at all. Eat the fruit whole instead and throw away your juicer/smoothy maker.

Just search the Internet for Good Carbs and there’s a whole plethora of information!

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Undoubtedly the internet has a plethora of information about carbohydrates and nutrition but some of it is very poor and often there mainly to help sell something. There is some good basic information on the NHS website.

It’s high time that everyone was made aware of just how much sugar there is in fruit juice. Eating whole fruit is a much better way of eating sensible amounts.

A juicer might help those who avoid greens and other vegetables to eat them.

Potatoes do contain a lot of starch, which is rapidly converted to sugar, as David has pointed out. On the other hand they do provide plenty of fibre, which many people lack in their diet. It’s a case of maintaining some sort of balance.

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I agree that you do have to be careful what you read on the Internet. There are so many that want your money to join a ‘club’ or sell you their products: anything to part you with your money. But that comprises much of the Internet!

Sweet potato (casava) or yams are a great substitute for potato. You can even make good chips with them. [Wash, cut into wedges, brush with a good vegetable oil and sprinkle any herb or spice you like: roast in the oven.)

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Bazjay says:
31 August 2014

Yes, I’ve read before that sweet potatoes are better for us than ordinary potatoes, though it sounds a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? Unfortunately I don’t like them anyway! But I simply try to stick to the “moderation in all things” line, and to Diabetes UK’s advice that carbs are OK but shouldn’t amount to more than about a third of any one meal.

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Sadly, there are NO good carbs.
Some are less bad than others.
None are essential.

Proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals – all are essential.

Carbohydrates are the one food group that we can live without.
There have been societies where the diet is just protein and fat – for instance the Inuit – and very low carb such as the Masai who lived on meat, blood and milk.
These have flourished – the Masai were noted for their strength, fitness, and unusual height.

This is all counter intuitive – we have been educated to believe that fats are bad, carbohydrates are good.
People are now starting to experiment with Low Cab High Fat eating plans and getting good results.

Everyone is different, of course, but the scientific views about nutrition are slowly changing.

Look up ketogenic diets – some of the information is quite surprising.

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We can live without carbohydrates can we? What about the fibre we need to keep our bowels working properly.

Perhaps a nice balanced diet is what is needed.

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No one suggests that you can live without carbs. Just eliminate the bad carbs and eat a balanced diet.

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Oh yes there are good carbs. Unless you’re suggesting that green veg – like Spinach – is bad? There are many good foods with a high fibre to carb ratio and they are all good eating.

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Precisely. But in a less than perfect world, just cut down on the ‘bad’ ones.

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Malc.Moore says:
31 August 2014

In a perfect world we would all be educated more about food products.Many of our population do live almost day to day relying on handouts from family;friends;or last resort a food bank.A very hungry person or someone living on the breadline will eat the cheapest convenience food which by enlarge not a balanced diet.I consider myself fairly careful buying food but hell It was of a shock in my Dentist seeing posters of sugar levels that really had impact&has made me more careful. Fortunately I have the time many mums with a young toddler&baby have to keep an eye on the toddler&baby they do not have the time unless Its easy read& Understand on the front of the product.More often its tinny print you have to search for it then if its too small put glasses on or use a Magnifier.Meanwhile our Government does zero about it but complains how much obesity costs the NHS the Taxpayer that’s most of us.

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At least the government supported the introduction of ‘traffic light’ food labelling, which provides an easy visual indication of food that is high in sugar, salt, fat, saturated fat and energy. It’s a pity that it did not make the system compulsory.

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I am suggesting that we CAN live without carbs.
Vegetable fibre is not essential to digestion or bowel health – according to some recent studies.

I point you all again to the Inuit.
Where did they get green vegetables given that they lived in permanent ice and snow?
Researchers have lived with them, on their diet, and been amazed that they could survive and thrive on a diet which is contrary to mainstream dietary thinking.

I’m not saying everyone SHOULD live without any carbs, just pointing out that people CAN live healthily without any carbs.
Which means that carbs are not essential to health.

I agree that we should aim to cut out the starchy and processed sources of carbs and stick to fresh vegetables and a sensible amount of fruit.
I don’t agree with the ‘diet plate’ of 33% carbohydrates.

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Lessismore says:
1 September 2014

There is a lot of labelling that we should be complaining about. People become confused over what information is important and what is not.

BTW sweet potatoes although we call them potatoes do not belong to the same family of plants.

People still don’t have the hang of Best Before and Use By. All teenagers going off to uni plus many others should have a copy of this stuck to their fridge door.

http://www.therubbishdiet.org.uk/should-you-throw-away-food-past-its-best-before-date/

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Barry says:
1 September 2014

Quite right, Wavechange. If ever I can’t get my daily high-fibre cereal for a while (away on holiday, say) I quickly notice the adverse effect on my digestive system.

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Malc.Moore says:
1 September 2014

Yes Lessismoroeven the Traffic light labelling needs tweaking and a common system across the food Industry.I think the food industry are shady and have no intention of actually making it crystal clear what is in their products to protect their profits.Customers ought to be able to see or pick up an Item make a quick call as to if they want to buy it not.Its a struggle to work out percentages adding various ingredients together as to what we are getting.

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Good link Lessismore.. I particularly like the .pdf advice.

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Hi David

the Inuit Paradox has been baffling science for some time and it is still being researched. The main theory being investigated is that the fat in the wild meats consumed by the Inuits differs in nutrients and composition from farmed animal fat.

This also has a bearing on the supporters of the Paleo diet faddists who eat fat with abandon. Is eating farmed animal fat the equivalent of eating wild animal fat as caught by our early ancestors?

We still have an awful lot to learn about food!

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Perhaps it is time to bring back food rationing. It might save the NHS.by generating a healthier nation.

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“True word and jest ” come to mind.

Taxing foods to deter purchase may be a way but denying people their liberty to eat and buy badly could be tricky. I still hold with banning advertising foodstuffs, and also putting it as a placement in TV programmes which is the way to get around advertising bans.

Bear in mind that some countries would no doubt be sued by the likes of Pepsi or Coke for intefering with their rights to sell rubbish to the gullible.

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It’s difficult to know how best to tackle the problem, but taxing sugar-rich foods could be counterproductive.

At present we have celebrities promoting ‘sports drinks’ which are loaded with sugars. Perhaps we could get the help of celebrities to highlight the problem of too much sugar in the diet. It might not be too hard to convince children that they don’t want to grow up like their parent’s generation – with a lot of obese and overweight people that drank Pepsi and Coke.

Perhaps there is a good case to target drinks and food that contain added sugar, even if this is no different from natural sugar. It’s not needed and if food must be sweetened there are natural sweeteners such as stevia that can be added.

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The idea of paying “celebrities” to do anything sticks in my craw. Banning food and drink advertising would be cheap for the government and if all was left were cookery programmes cooking from scratch I would expect more people to try this approach. I would actually consider excluding from the ban adverts which sold the basic materials like milk, egg, cheese, different rices and flours, and fresh vegetables.

Not necessarily that people would cook foods approved of by the keenest of diet regulators but overall I think there could be an improvement.

The rise of cheapish pre-cooked foods surely must be easily graphed against the rise of obesity in the UK , Australia and the US. Perhaps superimposed with the growth of anti-biotic usage!

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Please don’t get me wrong DT. I have nothing but contempt for celebrities, but there is no doubt that people do respect what they say and do.

Banning TV ads for tobacco and all the other legislation has not stopped people smoking.

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Erik99 says:
6 September 2014

Increase tax as a way to deter buying? Forget it! In Spain you can buy wine and beer in supermarkets for less than the equivalent of 50p a litre, and spirits for under £5 a litre, all perfectly drinkable. Yet Spain doesn’t have anything near the drink problem that we have. If people want it, they buy it, and the same for junk food.

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Those who are keen on a high-fat diet should bear in mind that it is well known that fats tend to accumulate some rather nasty toxic substances from our polluted environments.

The well publicised example is organomercury compounds in fish oils. We are recommended to eat oily fish to benefit from omega 3 fatty acids but not too frequently because of the amount of organomercury present. Other animal fats are known to accumulate toxic substances. Unless dietary advice promoting high fat or other diets warns about the risks, perhaps they should be regarded with suspicion.

As Terfar has said, we have a lot to learn about food. Official advice will change as we know more.

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I’m still in favour of a varied and well-balanced diet as a recipe for enjoyable and relatively healthy eating.
I reserve my contempt for just certain celebrities – including those who advertise products that I doubt they would actually touch – Michael Parkinson and “money for loved ones” – makes me cringe; Gok and healthy yoghurt for example. Why we respect “celebrities” I do not know.
The soft drinks industry is so lucrative that you’d have a job to curb it’s activities. In a perfect world people would not be taken in by persuasive selling of unhealthy products, and for many no doubt they do take an intelligent view of food. Is the answer to step up education and specifically draw attention to unhealthy products – who dare take on the industry? After that, you can only apply the nanny state so far, and people have to live their own lives and make their own choices.

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I agree with you (about both the balanced diet and celebrity ads). A celebrity is PAID to read a script: they are unlikely to know as much as we do about the item or service they are advertising. Why on earth do people fall for it hook, line and sinker.

I prefer the chimps advertising tea!

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I was rather hoping that celebrities might take on this role out of a sense of public duty. Though celebrities might not be the brightest bulbs I expect that most of them would know that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola are loaded with sugar and not the best things to be drinking.