Is it possible to control sugar consumption?

Ice cream and fried bananas. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Ice cream and fried bananas. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

I call sugar a sweet slow poison, a weapon of mass destruction. We use the poison on ourselves, our families and our friends, but not on our enemies.

It is reported the North American diet contains about 20 per cent sugar. This is equivalent to 30 teaspoons a day! Most of it is hidden in different kinds of juices and food. The major sources of added sugars are in beverages, desserts, sweet snacks, sweetened coffee, sweetened tea and candy.

Like alcohol, sugar has no nutritional value. It has no vitamins, minerals or fiber.

North American children’s consumption of sugar per day is reported to be between 25 to 35 per cent of total calories. The World Health Organization recommends daily dietary sugar intake of no more than 10 per cent of total calories.

Consumption of excess sugar raises blood pressure and makes us overweight. Our risk of becoming diabetic increases and it damages our liver by causing fatty liver. There is increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Several provinces in Canada have imposed extra tax on sweetened beverages. A new tax on sugary drinks sold in Newfoundland and Labrador has come into effect since September. This is Canada’s first per litre sugar sweetened beverage tax.

In Ontario, anyone who buys sugar-sweetened beverages including energy drinks, iced teas and pop will pay an extra 20 cents per litre in sales tax. Quebec has some laws as well. Around the world about 40 nations have imposed beverage tax.

Should Canada have nationwide beverage tax?

A new University of Alberta study suggests Canada could save $2.5 billion a year if everyone followed international guidelines for sugar intake. That would mean eating the equivalent of 2.2 Kit-Kats of sugar a day instead of our current three (The economic burden of excessive sugar consumption in Canada: should the scope of preventive action be broadened? By Liu et al Canadian Journal of Public Health volume 113, pages 331–340, 2022).

The article suggests increasing tax on sweetened beverages is not going to solve the problem. It says, “Public health interventions to reduce sugar consumption should therefore consider going beyond taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages to target a broader set of products, in order to more effectively reduce the public health and economic burden of chronic diseases.”

Is this possible? Sugar is hidden (for taste and preservation) in so many products that it makes the task of controlling sugar consumption almost humanly impossible. Just like controlling smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, over-eating and obesity.

What’s the solution? Self-control is the only way. Here is a collection of some ideas. There is nothing new in the list. These are the things we all think about and talk about but forget to implement.

  1. Eat a healthy balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.
  2. Replace juice and sweetened drinks with sugar free options.
  3. Do not give kids pop or juice outside of meal times (stick with water).
  4. Check nutrition labels.
  5. Government should tax all sugar-containing foods and use the funds to promote healthy eating and good health.

Sugar is one temptation we should do without! Do you think taxing sugar containing drinks and foods will change much?

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