On a hot summer’s day in a blistering heat, there’s nothing more refreshing than the taste of a glass of Coca-Cola with ice and a slice. In one 330ml can there is 35g of sugar which according to Coke’s website says it is the equivalent to seven teaspoons. Since sugar in its most common form comes in granules, it’s hard to picture how much 35g is and that’s where it becomes dangerous.
Most importantly, sugar is one of the most dangerous things to add to our bodies. It’s no one’s fault, we treat ourselves to a slice of cake because its been a long day and we’re after a refreshment on a hot day but when you consider the ingredients in their rawest forms it suddenly makes you less peckish.
Dr Sarah Wollaston chairs the health committee who have recently proposed a sugar tax duty in order to help fix the problem of sugar health related issues. She endorses the 20 per cent tax upon sugary drinks but Prime Minister David Cameron rules out the levy repeatedly. The tax is being strongly backed by the committee and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has also campaigned with petitions to gain backing to help reduce the availability of unhealthy drinks.
Obesity and illnesses related to bad diets including excessive consumption of sugary drinks and foods are so high that a quarter of children are obese by the time they leave primary school, and the older they get the higher the consumption and more available these sugar-loaded drinks and foods become.
Most of us know that we need five fruits and vegetables a day, we should have a balanced diet, consume at least two litres of water a day and make sure to get 30 minutes of exercise in a day. Sometimes what we think is adding to a balanced diet can be more harmful than we realise, choosing a flavoured water because it’s still a water based drink is worse for us with some of them containing more than a can of Coke.
Katharine Jenner, campaign director for Action On Sugar notes how easily we can be fooled into buying products we think are healthier. She said that water is the main ingredient in all soft drinks from Coca-Cola to Ribena so to suggest it is flavoured water is insincere. It’s another way for drinks companies to take advantage of customers and make money in the process. It’s true, the packaging can look so healthy with thriving fruit, and spring water and a clear bottle that you’d believe what you see is exactly what you’re getting.
For example, Volvic Touch of Fruit contained three teaspoons worth of sugar in only a 250ml serving according to a study by The Telegraph in March last year. With many supermarkets selling these in handy 500ml bottles you’ve nearly drunk the equivalent to a cola drink when your aim would have been to increase water consumption.
Ellie Cottrell, the communications manager for naturally flavoured drinks company Nuva, commented on the marketing and packaging of natural drinks, she said “when selecting flavoured water, packaging is the shopper’s personal choice The legislature on labelling allows for certain brands to make claims that are misleading to consumers it results in unhealthy product choices, for example when a product with a ’no sugar’ claim contains vast amount of sweeteners which is just a different type of sugar. Cottrell believes more needs to be done to make it known which are the truly healthy options and make it known on the shelves rather than placing it next to water.
With hidden sugars in products such as cereal, health drinks, ready meals and even sly wording to make items appear sugar-free it’s no surprise that as a country we’re unable to sustain a healthy sugar-free diet. In 2014, the infamous Sugar Puffs have renamed Honey Monster Puffs in a bid to keep children away from the obvious sugar rich choices. The company reduced sugar content by 1/3 and replaced some of the sugar content with honey as a seemingly better alternative. Sugar and honey are processed in the body the same way and create glucose, which creates the same result as a sugar buzz. Honey can create the same insulin rise and also create negative effects such as weight gain.
The reason why the food and drink companies can create ‘healthier’ alternatives that contain just as much sugar is because they can use fructose, which is a sugar, derived from fruit. Fructose is just as bad for us as granulated sugar yet the concept and production make consumers believe it must be better to have a spoon in our breakfast cereals rather than a spoon of granulated factory processed sugar.
Jasmine Logan, 25 who is a guardian to her 13- year-old cousin Holly says she was shocked to see how high the sugar content is in some cereals. Jasmine who is an admin assistant from Bath says “We have a 4:3 diet where Holly is allowed three sugary bowls of cereal in the week spaced out of the week and four days of healthy cereal to make sure it’s a balanced and enjoyable breakfast. I’m very careful in selecting the cereals we have on the table but I was still shocked to see how much some had.” The case with hidden sugars in foods just comes down to both creating higher insulin levels which are the main culprit for increased weight, bad teeth and mineral loss.
With fizzy drinks being one of the biggest culprits of a sugar overload in the diet it’s no surprise it can become an addiction and something people crave to get through the day. Twenty-five-year-old Becca Pearce a housewife from Buckhurst Hill says she needed it to get through the day. “I did a two-week sugar detox and had the worst withdrawal symptoms, random crying, headaches. It tells me that it must have been so addictive my body couldn’t cope without it, it’s so bad for us. Luckily I made the conscious change with the paleo diet and then cold turkey with the following eight months only limited natural sugars. I felt amazing and I managed to stop because I was pregnant.”
Ally Ramser, a plant-based nutritionist who works freelance on her website and Youtube channel fully believes sugar can become an addiction in the mind and body just like a caffeine addiction or even drugs, “I feel the diet should focus on whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. For example, natural sugars found in berries are beneficial and helpful for most people. We should avoid added sugars and any type of artificial sugar in our diet.”
The sugar tax seems like the only option for making the product harder to consume whilst the drinks companies do not reduce the sugar content. The tax brings a tax on poorer families who will find they are unable to buy the drinks as treats on occasion.
The campaigning group Against Sugar Tax said: “We don’t feel a sugar tax will have any health benefits because, for many people, they will continue to buy fizzy drinks.” Brook Whelan the director for the campaign feels that in reality “A lot of these people will be poorer people which will mean that a sugar tax will leave them with even less money to spend on fruit and veg.”
Andrew Mickel from Diabetes UK says most crucially the charity are keen to make sure that whilst the government’s tax will ‘incentivise people to make healthier choices’ they do not wish to see the duty affect those with diabetes and their families as they rely on high sugar products to treat low blood glucose levels.
With the tax, education and restrictions would appear necessary to provide more informed choices and provisions for those who rely on sugar to keep their sugar levels balanced.