Is sugar really that bad?

Nigel Latta did an excellent expose on sugar a couple of weeks ago on TV 1.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.  You can watch it at TVNZ On Demand.  Basically, he takes a look at the effect our ever increasing sugar consumption is having on our health.  His overarching question was ‘Is sugar the new fat?”.  The low fat era began in the 70’s and 80’s.  It was believed that fat was the main culprit in obesity and obesity related diseases, so food manufacturers began producing low fat products by the hundreds.  However, these products didn’t rate all that highly on the yumminess factor, so they had to figure out a way of making them more palatable so that consumers would buy them…….enter the white stuff. Sugar is a very cheap ingredient, which made the profit margins look good and it added great flavour to products, so they began to add it to more and more foodstuffs. And our consumption of it has been increasing ever since, often unknowingly, as it is hidden in many products we wouldn’t expect to find it in.

The World Health Organisation recommends that adult males consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, adult females no more than 6 teaspoons per day and children no more than 4 teaspoons per day.   According to Nigel Latta’s sources, the average Kiwi adult is consuming up to 50 kg of sugar per year; that is the equivalent of 32 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is pretty mind blowing really.  Our parents and grandparents would have consumed much less, largely because they ate so few processed foods and sugar would have been considered more of a treat.  Also, soft drinks hardly featured in their diets and they appear to be the biggest contributors to our rather frighteningly high sugar consumption.

An article published in the New Zealand Medical Journal noted that high consumption of sugar is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, let’s have a go at cutting down on the white stuff and replacing those fizzies with water or milk.


Printed in the Rodney Times on September 30, 2014 by Paula Southworth.