Parents should cut back on the amount of sugar in their children’s diets by swapping sweetened foods such as ice cream for healthier alternatives like yoghurt at mealtimes, according to a new government campaign launched today.
The initiative by Public Health England (PHE) will offer parents “sugar swap” tips as part of efforts to deal with Britons’ increasingly insatiable appetite for sugar-heavy foods linked to health problems from obesity to cancer.
According to Department of Health guidelines, added sugars should account for only about a tenth of a person’s calorie intake but it is feared that younger children aged four to 10 are consuming up to 50 per cent more than this.
A survey conducted for the campaign suggests such concerns are shared by parents themselves.
The poll by NetMums found that two-thirds of mothers are worried about the amount of sugar consumed by their offspring and one in two believes their family consumes too much sugar.
The Change4Life campaign will offer parents a “sugar challenge”, detailing foodstuffs which can be substituted for sugary products at particular mealtimes – for example offering water or milk instead of soft drinks or a wholewheat biscuit cereal rather than a sugary cereal at breakfast.
The Change4Life campaign will feature media advertising as well as a national roadshow and the delivery of sugar swap packs to parents. Research by the University of Reading found that when 50 families followed the advice, their average sugar intake went down by 40 per cent over a month or the equivalent of nearly 50 sugar cubes per day – from an average of 483g per day to 287g.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and well-being at PHE said: “Reducing sugar intake is important for the health of our children both now and in the future. We are all eating too much sugar and the impact this has on our health is evident.
“This campaign is about taking small steps to address this. We know from past campaigns that making simple swaps works and makes a real difference.”
Excess sugar intake has become a key focus for health researchers and campaigners following evidence that it causes at least as much damage to human beings as previously identified vices such as salt.
The Government’s own scientific advisers earlier this year called for the target for added sugar to form no more than 10 per cent of the daily diet to be halved to 5 per cent.
A study last month claimed that sugar is likely to be a more significant factor in pushing up blood pressure than salt, though the findings were challenged by other experts who said a direct link between sugar and hypertension had not yet been proven.
Sugar has nonetheless been identified as a key cause of obesity and associated diseases later in life such as heart problems, cancer and type two diabetes. It is also impacting dental health.Reuse content