It is understandable why we like sugar so much. From an evolutionary point of view, sugar was a good source of energy. Before we started refining sugar, the main sources would have been from chewing on sugar cane or from honey. Between the 18th and 19th century, England’s sugar consumption increased by 1500%. Today sugar has become a part of almost any processed food we eat. On average each person eats 34 teaspoons of sugar per day. A single can of coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. We have become a nation of sugar addicts.
Research suggests sugar is linked to major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Dr Robert Lustig, professor at the University of California, and expert on childhood obesity said, “sugar is toxic beyond its calories”. He and a group of other medical professionals and researchers believe that sugar has toxic effects in the body causing damage to many of our organs.
What role do companies such as Coca Cola have in this sugar and obesity epidemic? Coca Cola has defended its role in these epidemics by launching 2 minute ads in February 2013. In these ads Coca Cola explains initiatives they use to reduce sugar consumption:
- They mark clearly the calorie content of drinks on the front of the can.
- They offer low calorie drinks
- They offer zero calorie drinks
Companies such as Coca Cola will be affected by a new US law which limits the maximum size of soft drinks served in restaurants.
How can we reduce sugar consumption to prevent an obesity epidemic?
We need to take action to discourage the consumption of sweet foods and sugary drinks. A new tax in Mexico taking effect in January 2014 is tackling exactly this. The £0.05 tax per litre of sugary drink is designed to make it less attractive to buy cheap sugary drinks, as well as raising money to deal with issues such as childhood obesity. An additional tax of 8% is also being introduced on high energy foods with more than 275kcal per 100g. Should we introduce similar taxes in the UK to help foot the costs of the obesity epidemic? and how can we reduce consumption of something most of us are addicted to?