Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diabetes, Obesity and Poor Nutrition: The Sugar Link

Diabetes, Obesity and Poor Nutrition: 
The Sugar Link

Obesity, diabetes and poor nutrition are all on the increase in the developed world. Sugar is the one food that links all 3 together. It is the one ingredient whose excessive use has lead to this increase.

Data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) showed that 415 million adults now have diabetes, with 318 more million at risk. By 2040, one in 10 persons is projected to develop the disease. It is unfortunate, that this disease, which has now been on the radar of many countries public health agenda for over a decade now, has seen little improvement. 

One reason is the undue influence of the food and drink industry and other lobby groups on government and policy makers. Their input and influence on setting the discourse on public agenda is so strong, that any concrete measures by elected representatives or government officials to tackle the problem goes unfulfilled. 

As a result, multinational food and drink companies, with a financial interest to provide foods that are already processed, energy dense, and nutrient poor is the norm. Whether we are talking about soda pop or energy drinks, microwaveable or frozen to processed foods, we have now entered into a dietary climate which if not treated will bankrupt the heath care system of many countries. 

It was only recently that the World Health Organization (WHO) changed their recommendation of daily sugar intake to between 25 - 50 grams. This announcement came on the heels of statistical data which showed that between the years 2003 and 2013 the daily intake of sugar per person increased 10% from 58 grams in 2003 to 63 grams in 2013. 

One recommendation that has been put forward to begin tackling the problem is to add a "sugar tax" on food and beverages whose sugar content exceeds a certain level. Certain countries like Mexico and Venezuela have imposed such a tax. Other countries, who are considering the tax are facing stiff protest from multinational food and drink companies who complain that such a tax is unfair and unwarranted. 

In the United States, a 2015 Scientific report outlining dietary guidelines noted that the U.S. has a shortfall of vital nutrients such as vitamin A, D, E, and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, fibre, potassium and iron. It goes on to state that "obesity needs much more serious attention than countries and global health organisations are currently prepared to give. The goal of a sugar reduction by introducing a sugar tax is a small step in the right direction. 

In addition to the sugar tax, broader measures are needed such as an education system that teaches children and adolescents the importance of good nutrition, proper eating habits, and the importance of physical activity. It is also important that companies understand their role of projecting positive corporate values and responsibility. 


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