Taking up the sugar-free challenge

Posted by Denplan on 07/09/2016
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In January 2016, it was revealed that 47% of adults said they would support the introduction of a tax on sugary soft drinks*. Subsequently, in March the Government announced that a sugar tax for manufacturers of sugary soft drinks will come into effect in 2018.

Following on from this, the BDA has called on the Government to show real leadership on sugar and support radical action on the marketing, labelling, taxation and reformulation of products containing added sugar. Many in the dental profession, including Denplan, have also been left disappointed by the Government’s watered down childhood obesity strategy, which appears to only offer half measures in the fight against sugar addiction. The strategy fails in the eyes of many health experts, campaigners, and MPs to fully tackle the issue of unhealthy eating habits and does not impose tough enough restrictions on manufacturers and retailers.

Whilst the Government is making small steps in the right direction, more needs to be done to change the public’s habits when it comes to sugar – to improve public health as well as oral health.

We asked people how they felt about their current sugar intake. Here are the top answers*: 

  • 28% said they were already taking steps to watch or reduce their sugar intake
  • 27% said they were happy with their current sugar intake and have no plans to change 
  • 15% said they actively avoid eating sugar
  • 9% said they’d like to reduce their sugar intake and plan to do so soon
  • 8% said they’d like to reduce their sugar intake but aren’t sure how

Interestingly, the 18-24 year old group are the most likely of all ages who said they’d like to reduce their sugar intake (30%)*. The 55+ age group are most conscientious when it comes to their sugar consumption, with 54% saying they already watch their intake or actively avoid sugar*.

Worried about the lack of knowledge surrounding sugar consumption, Denplan is urging people to go sugar-free for 30 days by taking part in its Sugar-Free September campaign. Visiting www.sugar-free-september.co.uk will give readers access to information on hidden sugars, reveal the health risks of too much sugar consumption, provide tips on how to cut back on sugar and explain the importance of regular dentist visits and a better oral health regime.

Below are some helpful tips that you can share with your patients to kick start their sugar-free lifestyle:

  • Try to make your meals and snacks from scratch so that you know exactly what’s in them
  • Stick to water, milk, tea and coffee (without sugar added) for fluids, and nuts, cheese, vegetables, and sugar-free rice cakes for snacks
  • Always read the labels on food and drink packaging and look out for the more unusual terms for sugar, such as sucrose, molasses or fructose
  • Keep a food diary

You could also show your patients Change4Life’s free Sugar Smart app, which can help identify snacks that are high in sugar. The website also has plenty of tips, recipe suggestions and sugar swap ideas. 

The NHS recommendations are that added sugars shouldn't make up more than 5% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. This is a maximum of 30g of sugar a day for those aged 11 and over, up to 24g for children 7-10 years old and no more than 19g for children 4-6 years old**.

Henry Clover, Denplan’s Chief Dental Officer says ‘There are many factors in tackling the problem of the UK’s sugar consumption, but if we can start encouraging people to be aware of their recommended daily sugar limits, to read and understand food and drink labels, to make healthy choices, and to limit how frequently they have sugar throughout the day, we can do a lot to reduce oral health and overall health problems.’

*Denplan/YouGov Survey January 2016. Online survey of 5,152 UK adults.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

** http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/sugars.aspx