It’s Sugar Awareness Week!
As the nation’s children run amok for Halloween, stashing enough sweets to last until Easter, Sugar Awareness Week launches on 30 October – giving us dentists a timely opportunity to point out the benefits of reducing your sugar intake.
While the Halloween sugar-fest comes and goes in an evening, it’s actually the rest of the year that needs a rethink about sugar. Poor food labelling, misleading marketing and cheeky price promotions all incite us, unwittingly, to eat too much sugar – which, in turn, can lead to Type 2 diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Sugar Awareness Week is ramping up the pressure on government and the food industry to do more to help the nation’s health – and create a buzz around simple ways of limiting sugar intake.
The guidelines on sugar have changed recently – so here’s the lowdown on reducing the white stuff, and getting more of the right stuff.
How much sugar is too much?
‘Free sugars’ should make up no more than 5% of your daily diet – the equivalent of 5 sugar cubes in young children, and 7 in adults. ‘Free sugars’ are sugars that are added to food, either to sweeten it or prolong shelf life. There are over 60 types of these sugars – including honey and agave – most of them derived from fructose.
But isn’t fructose found in fruit?
Yes – but in fruit it’s encased in fibre, which slows down absorption in the body. Likewise, the sugars found naturally in dairy and vegetables are absorbed more slowly and therefore not considered bad for your health.
So how do I know how much free sugar is in the food I buy?
Currently, UK food labels don’t distinguish between free and natural sugars. Until this changes, you’ll have to keep squinting at the packaging to find out if sugars have been added to each ingredient. But help is at hand – download the NHS Change4Life Sugar Smart app, and you can use your phone to scan any barcode in the supermarket and get a fast rundown of its sugar content.
So how do I explain to my kids that trick or treating is going to mess with their sugar limit?!
As dentists, we’d rather trick or treating didn’t happen at all – but we understand it’s an occasion lots of families look forward to. Put out a less sugary snack for your visitors – perhaps other parents will follow your lead next time – and try to confine sweets to mealtimes. Also, as always, make sure your kids brush their teeth thoroughly before bed. Share #SugarAwarenessWeek on your social feeds, and talk to family and friends about it – and help create a long-awaited change.