We asked Angela Sheedy, CDU lecturer in Health Sciences to give us the low-down on sugar; how it's hurting us and why we should reduce our sugar intake, not just for weight loss.
By Angela Sheedy - Lecturer, College of Nursing and Midwifery
Why reducing your sugar intake?
With so many conflicting messages, it’s easy to become a little worn down and start avoiding health tips. But there is one part of our dietary intake that we really do need to be more aware of…SUGAR. Poor dietary intake is considered a modifiable risk factor, which means it is a risk factor for chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers that we can change.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2016) Australians spend around $237 a week on food and beverages, and almost 2 in 3 adults (63%) are overweight or obese. So making healthy food choices can help reduce the 22% of Australians with heart disease and lessen the incidence of diabetes which currently affects 1 in 17 Australians.
Here are another 5 reasons why we should all reduce our sugar intake:
- By cutting back on sugar you are cutting back on processed foods. Sugar is hidden in nearly everything, and many foods advertised as low fat actually contain more sugar, make sure you read food labels carefully (become food literate).
- A side effect of cutting back on sugar is weight loss. What you will consequently gain is reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol. These modifiable risk factors all significantly contribute to our chronic disease burden which impacts our health system and budget.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO 2016) recommends we should be taxing sugary drinks as there is evidence to support this will reduce consumption; this is potentially on the agenda for Australia (we already have healthy food policies for schools to reduce sugary drink consumption) so getting into healthy habits now will save you money.
- The most prevalent non-communicable disease globally is dental caries and much of this is blamed on what we refer to as 'free sugars'; that is monosaccharides and disaccharides which are added to foods as part of the manufacturing process. Avoid the tooth pain and cut down the dentist bill by avoiding free sugars.
- We need to set better health examples for our younger generations. With 25% of our children being in the overweight and obese category, adults should role model good food choices and ensure the right dietary choices are made. This way we are ensuring our next generation will be fit and healthy to look after us, as we are an aging population and will live to around 82 years of age now.