Sugary soft drinks, cake, and pastries are the main culprits but added sugar in all products is also a major problem.
We’re barely past the half of the year, but English children have already consumed their yearly sugar allocation, new figures conclude. According to a new report by Public Health England (PHE), children are munching down sweets like never before. The study estimates that children aged 4 to 10 are eating more than twice as much sugar as they should: the equivalent of 13 sugar cubes per day, or 4,800 cubes a year.
According to existing recommendations, kids shouldn’t consume more than the equivalent of 6 cubes of sugar per day.
But the problem isn’t sugar cubes.
“We’re barely halfway through the year and already children have consumed far more sugar than is healthy – it’s no surprise this is contributing to an obesity crisis,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “Snacks and drinks are adding unnecessary sugar to children’s diets without us even noticing. Swapping to lower- or no-added-sugar alternatives is something all parents can work towards.”
Unsurprisingly, sugary drinks are one of the main culprits, accounting for 10% of the total sugar intake. This is often in the form of empty calories in sugary drinks. Fruit juice with no added sugar can be a healthier alternative, but consuming too much of this is also unhealthy since fruits have a lot of sugar by themselves. Cakes and other pastries account for another 10% and again, this isn’t really surprising. Kids love sweets, and cakes are always among the favorites. Another 9% came from biscuits and 8% from morning cereals — often considered a healthy breakfast, they regularly contain a lot of sugar.
Sugar itself (along with sugary spreads) accounted for only 9% of the total intake.
This is already having a huge effect on the children’s health. Sugar is one of the main causes of obesity and can often lead to cavities and other teeth problems. A previous study found that over 4% of all British children are obese by the time they reach 11 years of age, and the UK is the most obese country in Europe. However, the UK has started to implement policies to tackle this issue — most notably, a sugar tax.
The sugar tax came into force in the UK in April, and already, many big brands are cutting down on the sugar in their drinks, or switching to sugar-free alternatives. Many bars and pubs have already changed their standard drinks to sugar-free options because it’s cheaper than the taxed sugar alternative. However, this is still just one step.
PHE is trying to reduce the sugar in all foods and drinks regularly consumed by kids by 20% by 2020.
These are certainly startling figures and highlight that the obesity crisis that’s threatening not just England, but the entire world, is probably here to stay for at least another generation.