As part of the Ricola #ricolasugarswop campaign this week I was in the Manchester Arndale Centre answering questions about sugar. So I thought it would be helpful to write up some of the questions and answers on here.
Q: Why is it so important to reduce sugar intake in the diet?
A: The UK’s population is becoming obese. Obesity leads to multiple health conditions such as heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. Where sugar fits into this is that sugar is very high in calories. If we eat too many calories (which we are) then these calories get stored in the body as fat causing us to become obese. Not only this but sugar also causes dental cavities.
Q: What do you think about the sugar substitutes used in no sugar/low sugar foods? Are they safe?
A: Everything that goes into food in the UK has to go through vigorous testing and meet certain guidelines. Mostly when people ask about substitutes of sugar they are concerned about the safety of sweeteners and in particular Aspartame. This originally got its bad reputation back in 1996 when a report suggested a link between aspartame and brain cancer diagnosis. However, this study was a poor quality piece of work and since this there have been many good quality studies showing this sweetener to be safe for intake. Furthermore, in 2013 The European Food Safety Authority conducted a full review looking at all the studies together and came to the conclusion that Aspartame was indeed safe for use.
Q: Are sugar free sweets ok for people with diabetes?
A: Yes, they are safe for people with diabetes as they will not affect their blood sugar levels in the same rapid way as sugar does. However, you still need to be careful because many sweeteners have a laxative affect when a large amount is taken. An alternative would be to have normal sweets/chocolate but just have less of them or to have alternative healthy snacks such as a piece of fruit or a yoghurt.
Q: How much sugar is Ok?
A: The government have recommended that we should not be getting more than 5% of our energy from sugar each day. But what does this actually mean? It means an adult should not have more than 30g of ‘added sugar’ in a day. ‘Added sugars’ mean any sugar that is added to food/drink. For instance, there is natural sugar in fruit and so fruit juice has no added sugar in it unless the manufacturer has added sugar to it in order to make it sweeter.
Q: How can I tell how much sugar is in a food?
A: By looking at the back of the packet. There should be a nutrition information box which will look like the one below. As you can see there is a ‘CARBOHYDRATES’ section and beneath this there is a ‘of which sugars’ section. It is this section that will tell you how much sugar the product has in it. If it has 5g per 100g or less then it is considered low sugar if it is 6-22g per 100g then it is has a medium sugar content and if it is more than 22.5g per 100g then it is high in sugar. The below product has a medium sugar content.
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