We need a radical rethink on free sugars in our foods
We live in a world where we have no idea what is actually in our food. The package looks attractive and the inside smells and tastes heavenly. Why shouldn’t it be good for our health? Well, it seems that our food has a very high sugar content which is extremely harmful for our body and our teeth.
Don’t be fooled by the industry, sugar is everywhere. It’s in our meet, in our bread, in our processed foods, everywhere. It is an amazing preservative and it makes food look great and that’s why food industry is so in love with it.
A new research from UCL (University College London) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, shows that sugars should only represent 3% of our total energy intake. The study analyzed the effect of sugars on dental caries, also known as tooth decay and it showed that sugars are the only cause of tooth decay in children and adults. Actually, tooth decay is the most common non-communicable disease in the world, affecting 60-90% of school-age children and the vast majority of adults.
When they refer to sugars they talk about both free sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
The most relevant example is the situation in Japan immediately after the Second World War. During the war and a short period after it, they didn’t have access to sugar. This shown a drop in tooth decay and an increase immediately after they started using sugar again.
Nigeria has a similar situation. People only consume 2g of free sugars per day. The numbers are clear: only 2% of the population has tooth decay. As a comparison, in USA, 92% of adults experience caries.
In search for a solution to the tooth decay problem, the authors of this new research recommend a series of radical policy changes to reduce sugar consumption. They want governments to regulate and fight against the promotion of fruit juices and sugar containing treats for children. Actually it would help if they will be seen as unhelpful.
A very big problem for countries where people eat free sugars over the recommended daily dose is easy access. Vending machines with sugary drinks and treats are everywhere. In schools, in offices, on the street you have access to sugary foods.
Dental cavities are not the only health problems excess sugars caused. We are talking about obesity too. The food industry should be re-educated in reducing their sugar use to 2.5% or even better make them stop using sugar in our foods.
Authors think that the world needs some radical measures like interrupting the flow of sugars in the food chain by exporting the entire sugar beet production outside the EU. They consider this production unnecessary. Also USA should reduce their production and stop their massive pro sugar campaigns.
Another way of helping population reduce their daily sugar intake and the industry cut production is a sugars tax in order to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks.
Sugar is one of the big addictions of our times and its drug like effect on our brain was proven by many studies. Also the diseases produced by consuming sugar over the recommended dose should raise many question marks for food industry representatives. Still, due to the fact that sugary drinks and sugary foods represent a huge industry we are going to need more than a study for caries and obesity to stop the production.
All we can do for now is to protect our children and ourselves by checking the labels of the products we buy.