3 Jun 2015  •  Dental Health  •  4min read By  • Tony Kilcoyne

Why is it so Difficult to Reduce Sugar Individually?

Today, our guest blogger, Dr Tony Kilcoyne shares his views on sugar and why its growing appearance within the food industry is a cause for concern.

It seems that we are waking up to the dangers of excessive sugar consumption in food and drinks, from medical health issues such as diabetes and its further consequences, to children’s rotten teeth – the number one reason for under 10s being hospitalised in England!

At first this seems a strange phenomenon. Surely people just need to cut down sugar they ADD to food and drink and just eat a few less sweets then the problem’s sorted, right? WRONG!!!

A major factor that has sneaked into our food chain are the copious amounts of sugars now being pumped into a wide variety of foods and drinks, meaning that it is almost impossible to avoid high sugar frequency and high sugar volume in an average diet. Examples that surprise people after the usual suspects of sweets, treats, cakes and fizzy drinks, are the less obvious pastries, savoury snacks and even bread and cereals.

It seems some in the food industry have discovered the more sugar they add to foods, including crisps and bran cereals, the cheaper they can sell them on for and they become more quickly addictive which leads to more profits and sales. This terrible cycle then continues as other competitor companies and producers see this ‘success’ and thus copy such behaviour which, without any stringent controls, keeps getting worse over time.

The food industry retorts by printing the sugar contents so we can’t say they are hidden sugars, but in reality the print is so small you’d need magnifying loops to notice it, certainly compared to the larger (and relatively meaningless) labels saying ‘natural’, ‘no artificial preservatives’ or ‘healthy’, when the contents may be 25% sugar or worse by weight.

The most shocking example I came across when doing research for the channel 4 programme ‘Food Unwrapped’ was a ‘healthy’ snack in a green box targeted at children – it was ‘approved by mums’, yet had over 60% sugar content.

The food industry simply doesn’t see good public health as its role, but I do wonder if they had to print the sugar content in large letters on the front of the packet, how that would help the consumer realise they may as well have bought some chocolate or candy instead – at least those are fully honest and obvious sweet foods!

With all this sugar circulating in society’s food chain, children are now developing a sweet tooth, so much so they reject raw vegetables and farm foods, in favour of sweetened foods, sweeter varieties of fruit, potatoes, bottled water, etc.

We seem to be entering a perfect storm where we have relative dental ignorance about prevention in society, a food industry that is now addicted to pumping more and more sugar into the food chain, raising our addiction and appetite to consume even more of their sugar-infested food products – where will it all end?

18th May to 18th June is National Smile Month, where the British Dental Health Foundation and its supporters make an extra push to inform the public about dental health and better choices for their children and themselves.

The easiest first change is to encourage diet or no-sugar alternatives, avoiding sugary snacks between meals and reading labels VERY closely indeed. We then need to alert the public to demand clearer labelling and end this sugar-crazed spiral, for the sake of our children’s dental and medical health, now and later.

That’s a plan we can all practice!

Tony Kilcoyne

About the Author

Dr Tony Kilcoyne is a specialist in Prosthodontics and BBC Radio 2’s resident dentist.
Please note, this blog is entirely Dr Tony Kilcoyne’s personal opinion and unrelated to any posts he holds, past or present.


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