Sugar is everywhere in our diet and often in the most unexpected places. Food manufacturers use it as a flavour enhancer, particularly for low fat foods for example, soa savoury meal is often laden with sugar. And its consumption is causing rapidly rising levels of obesity in both developed and developing nations, as well as rises in associated conditions such as diabetes. It is often accepted as the one of the biggest health challenges for the 21st century. “It’s the new smoking”, to quote Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS.
The UK has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe. Current research shows that 24.9% of the population in the UK are obese and sugar is a significant contributor to this alarming statistic.
Estimates put the cost to the UK economy of obesity at £5 billion, quite apart from the costs of other conditions linked to excess sugar consumption.
Sugary drinks are seen as one of the culprits. These are normally high calorie drinks, which do nothing to satisfy hunger. More alarmingly they are often marketed as energy drinks, with the implication that they can form part of a fitness regime. Sugary drink advertising is often aimed at the young and easily impressionable, placing them at a higher risk of become overweight.
Why sugar is bad for our health
We all know that too much sugar rots our teeth and makes us fat, but exactly why is that the case?
Here are a few examples;
Tackling the problem
Societies have changed remarkably since the 1950s, as we have all become less active – whether through increased car ownership, less participation in sports, or the rise of sedentary occupations. The service industry now accounts for 73% of all business in the UK, a significant move away for production and manufacturing where job roles were more active.
Given the economic and social impacts of obesity to the nation’s wealth and health, the Government is looking at various avenues to curb sugar consumption, including a 20% tax on fizzy sugary drinks. This is not something new; when Mexico introduced a 10% tax on fizzy drinks, sales of taxed drinks fell by 6%.
Encouraging a healthier regime in the workplace will lead to a healthier workforce, with less absence through obesity-related conditions, lower costs of absence and higher productivity.
How employers can help