Lowering sugar intake could have potential in fighting obesity

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We have a growing weight problem in the UK.

Obesity levels have more than trebled in the last 30 years, and current estimates suggest more than half the population could be obese by 2050. 1

While part of the problem is a lack of physical activity, there is also a need reduce our sugar and fat intake.

Recent UK research has shown that reducing the sugar content in sugar-sweetened drinks (soft drinks and fruit juices) by 40 percent over five years (without replacing them with any artificial sweeteners) could have major benefits.

The study was conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London. They estimated that reducing sugar content could:

•    Prevent 1 million cases of obesity;
•    Prevent 500,000 people becoming overweight in the UK;
•    Help between 274,000 and 309,000 people avoid developing obesity-related type 2 diabetes over the next 20 years.

The idea is that if the sugar content was reduced gradually our taste buds would slowly adapt to the change and the effect on taste would be minimal.

“Gradually lowering sugar levels in sweet drinks – such as fruit juices and soft drinks – could be a major benefit to the health of the British populace. And the best part is, if the changes were implemented smoothly enough, people might not even notice that the sweetness of their beverages was decreasing,” say the researchers.

Data was sourced from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey between 2008 and 2012 as well as from British Soft Drinks Association annual reports. It looked at what percentage of people's energy intake in the UK was made up of ‘sweet drinks’. 

It was estimated that the gradual reduction in sugar content would culminate in a 38.4 percent reduction in calories per day by the end of the fifth year. 
Researchers wished to point out that this alone will not solve the obesity epidemic. However it is certainly a step in the right direction, as obesity, along with smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity are all major lifestyle factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease.

1 The State of Food and Agriculture 2013, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

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