Tag Archives: Sugar

nestle choco

Nestle to slash amount of sugar in chocolate bars by 10% by 2018

Some of the UK’s favourite chocolate bars – including Kit Kats and Yorkies – will contain 10% less sugar by 2018, Nestle has announced.

The confectioner said it would use around 7,500 tonnes less sugar to make its products by next year.

The sugar will be replaced with higher quantities of other existing ingredients or other, non-artificial ingredients

Nestle has said it will use 10% less sugar in its chocolate bars, which include Kit Kats, by 2018

Products will also be kept below a certain amount of calories.

Fiona Kendrick, Chairman and CEO of Nestle UK and Ireland, said: “Our confectionery brands have been enjoyed in the UK for more than a century and we know that if we can improve these products nutritionally, provide more choice and information for the consumer, together with other categories, we can have a significant impact on public health.

“Nestle is at the forefront of efforts to research and develop new technology that makes food products better for our consumers.

“These innovations will help us to reduce sugar in confectionery when they are combined with other, more common methods like reformulating recipes and swapping sugar for other, non-artificial ingredients.

“Making these improvements to our products is key to us delivering better choices for our consumers while retaining the same great taste that they know and love.”

Sourced by the Mail Online

Type 2 Diabetes Drug Metformin Linked to Lower Thyroid Function

One of the most widely-prescribed medications for type 2 diabetes has been linked to lower levels of thyroid functioning, according to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Taking metformin, used to lower blood glucose levels by reducing glucose production in the liver, may promote an increased risk of low thyroid-stimulating hormone levels – which could in turn lead to harmful effects such as harm, such as cardiovascular conditions and bone fractures, said a news release.
Sometimes metformin is administered for use in combination with insulin or other medications, but it is not intended for treating type 1 diabetes.
The study focused on patients previously disgnosed with underactive thyroids, or hypothyroidism.
Researchers looked at data generated on 74,300 patients who received metformin and sulfonylurea, another common diabetes drug, over a 25-year study period.
Out of the study subjects, 5689 had been treated for hypothyroidism and 59, 937 reported having normal thyroid function.
In the hypothyroidism group, there were 495 who experienced incidences of low thyroid-stimulating hormone annually, compared with 322 in the normal group.
In patients with treated hypothyroidism, metformin monotherapy – in other words, injecting the drug as prescribed by physicians — was associated with a 55 percent increased risk of low TSH levels, in comparison with the risk associated with sulfonylurea treatment.
Metformin therapy, did not appear to affect people with normal thyroid function.
“The results of this longitudinal study confirmed that the use of metformin was associated with an increased risk of low TSH levels in patients with treated hypothyroidism,” said study lead Dr. Laurent 
Azoulay of the Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital and the Department of Oncology, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec.
“Given the relatively high incidence of low TSH levels in patients taking metformin, it is imperative that future studies assess the clinical consequences of this effect.”
Source Latin Post

Study shows link between artificial sweeteners and diabetes

Doctors once thought artificial sweeteners lacked the health risks of sugar, but a new study says they can impact blood sugar levels the same way.
As if parents didn’t already have enough to concern themselves with, it looks like artificial sweeteners could pose another health risk, according to a September 18, 2014 article posted by the Boston Globe.
Based on a study published in the journal Nature, artificial sweeteners could lead to the development of diabetes. 
The study was conducted by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and involved mice and people. 
According to the study, the chemicals in artificial sweeteners disrupt the flora of certain bacteria in the small and large intestines, leading to an increase in blood sugar. 
The results were consistent with laboratory mice and with people. Individuals who consumed saccharin for a week showed elevated blood sugar levels in 4 out of the 7 individuals who took part in the study.
“We demonstrated that the bacteria could cause changes that would cause disturbances in glucose levels,” said Eran Elinav, one of the study’s coauthors.
Study results also showed that gut bacteria is fundamentally altered in those who use artificial sweeteners- a finding that could lead to other health concerns besides diabetes.
“As scientists, we simply point to the immense body of experiments that we carried out in humans and mice and in none have we seen any beneficial effects” for using artificial sweeteners as opposed to regular sugar and natural sweeteners, said Eran Segal, another study coauthor. 
“We believe at the very least that this study and this result should prompt additional debate into what is currently a massive use of artificial sweeteners.”
Artificial sweeteners are popular due to their lack of calories and are a common go- to sugar substitute for those who are watching their weight. 
But the results of this study and others like it show that the reduced calorie benefit may not be worth it in the long run and could lead to other health problems- problems far more severe than added calories.
Parents are often rightfully concerned about feeding artificial sweeteners to children, but ordinary sugar isn’t much better and most nutrition experts agree that both should be controlled. 
As for the results of this study, more research is needed before any definite conclusions can be drawn. In the meantime, the best advice for parents and children is to limit sugar and artificial sweeteners in any form, whenever possible.
Source The Examiner

Health pressure group urges sugar limit in fizzy drinks to help curb obesity epidemic

Call for urgent Government action as study shows one third of the average British teenager’s sugar intake is from pop alone.
 
Health campaigners are calling for restrictions on the amount of sugar fizzy drinks makers can use, after research showed a third of the average teenager’s sugar intake was from pop.

An analysis of 232 drinks found more than nine teaspoons of sugar in supermarket cola. And 15 leading big brands and own labels were packed with at least eight teaspoons in a 330ml serving.

Action on Sugar is urging the Government to crack down on permitted levels in a bid to tackle the nation’s obesity crisis.

While cola was one of the worst culprits for sugar overload, research revealed added sugar was just as high in alternative drinks like ginger beer and sparkling elderflower. Six out of ten brands of ginger beer were found to contain more sugar than a regular can of Coke with up to 13.2 teaspoons compared to 8.7 in classic Coke.

Elderflower drinks had as much sugar as three and a half Krispy Kreme donuts. Cloudy lemonade had 11.1 teaspoons of sugar, dandelion and burdock 9.7 teaspoons and ginger ale 7.7 per 330mls.

Action on Sugar examined drinks from nine supermarkets and discount stores and found Fentimans Traditional Curiosity Cola topped the sugar table with 9.3 teaspoons per 330ml glass.

Lidl Freeway Cola and Tesco Classic Cola contained nine teaspoons, Sainsbury’s Classic Cola had 8.9, while colas from Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Asda were also high with 8.8 teaspoons.

Big brands Coke and Pepsi contained 8.7 teaspoons – the same as Morrisons and Aldi Vive Original, the study found.

Action group chairman, Professor Graham MacGregor, said: “Added sugars are completely unnecessary in our diets and are strongly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as tooth decay – which remains a major problem for children and adults.

“We urge the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to set incremental targets for sugar reduction now – and to start with these sugary drinks. Replacing sugar with sweeteners is not the answer, we need to reduce overall sweetness so people’s tastes can adjust to having less sweet drinks.

“A similar approach has successfully reduced salt intake. People are consuming 15% less salt than they were 10 years ago, and now prefer less salty foods. This policy is estimated to be saving 9,000 lives a year, plus healthcare savings of £1.5billion a year.  It is time to do the same for sugar.”

The World Health Organisation recently lowered its recommendation for sugar from 10% of our energy intake to 5% – but Brits are consuming three times the suggested daily level.

Action on Sugar’s Dr Aseem Malhora said: “One sugary drink per day is associated with an increased risk of 22% for type 2 diabetes – even in the non-obese.”

But the British Soft Drinks Association accused health campaigners of “being blinded by political zeal”. Director general Gavin Partington said: “These campaigners appear to have missed the 60% of soft drinks on the market which contain no added sugar. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, they have also ignored the evidence that shows obesity arises from an imbalance of calories consumed and calories expended and is not caused by one particular ingredient.”

Source Daily Mirror

Sugar was making me unwell, so I gave it up overnight

As new advice suggests that we halve our daily sugar intake, what are the benfits of banishing the white stuff for good ?
I haven’t had a cake for seven years, or a pudding, or chocolate. Not even one small square. Sugar has virtually disappeared from my diet. And do I miss it? You’ve got to be joking.
So when the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced last week that we were all in serious need of cutting back on how much sugar we consume – ideally, just five per cent of our daily calorie intake, equivalent to less than one can of Coca-Cola – I was, for once, ahead of the curve. I’ve already done it, and the good news is life without sugar is fine.
It sounds impossible. That’s certainly what I felt when I was told, seven years ago, that for medical reasons I needed to cut sugar from my diet. And not just spoonfuls of the refined variety you add to cups of tea – even the natural sugars found in fruit could do me harm.
As a younger woman, I had always been sporty, going running, dancing and horseriding several times a week, as well as getting an adrenalin fix at aerobics classes. 
But by the age of 42, I found I was so creaky and stiff that it hurt simply to climb the stairs. I went to see my GP. 
She prodded and poked, and asked if I ever suffered from tiredness or insomnia? Did I ever feel faint and irritable? Did I get cramps in my stomach and legs? Did I ever have nasty headaches or migraines? And how was my memory?
“Those aren’t symptoms,” I said, “that’s my personality.” Only, no, they were all symptoms of low blood-sugar levels. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia with hypoglycemia.
A potentially dangerous condition that results from an excess of insulin in the blood, hypoglycemia can cause the heart to race, anxiety attacks and even seizures that, if recurrent, may result in brain damage. 
I was told that to control it, I would I have to keep my blood sugar on a even keel. Essentially, this meant eating more protein and fat – as well as almost no sugar, in any form.
There was a list of banned foods deemed sugary: soft drinks, fruit juice, dried fruit, potatoes (the starch eventually converts into glucose), corn, bananas, rice, pasta, honey, and sweets of any kind.
Cutting sugar from your diet is not something you can ease yourself into, or you’ll simply never do it. 
So I asked a friend to help me clear the cupboards, fridge and freezer of everything on the banned list.
Then we went shopping to stock up on things that I could eat, and I went cold turkey. Overnight, sugar was out of my life.
I remember the first two weeks being a nightmare – I was extremely stroppy at mealtimes. My friends remember the first six months being like that as I struggled to find a new equilibrium.
Like most of us, I’d simply got into bad habits. I was lazy. Mid-afternoon, I would need something to nibble on, and a chocolate bar was as good as anything. If I came home impossibly late from work, I might treat myself to a big bowl of pasta.
Initially, it was hard enough not to put sugar in my tea, eat cake or have something delicious for dessert. 
These were the visible, obvious sugars. What was much, much harder was working out where all the hidden sugars were and avoiding them, too. And sugar, it turns out, is in or is added to so much of our food.
You only learn this through ghastly mishaps. I remember early on not grasping that sugar hides everywhere, like a series of trap doors, so after work I bought a delicious Chinese takeaway. 
The result was dramatic: I was awake all night, absolutely wired with the sugar coursing round my veins. It’s a wretched feeling being desperate to sleep but being unable to because your body is tripping out on sugar. 
It leaves you feeling good for nothing the next day. From then on, takeaways were out, along with all processed food.
I also learnt the hard way that alcohol was no longer my friend. I’d always enjoyed a glass of wine and was particularly fond of a gin and tonic. 
But within the first two weeks of giving up sugar, a night out with a colleague left me lying in the bath groaning. I couldn’t work out why. After all, I’d only had two drinks. But then I realised: the tonic water was packed with sugar.
Everyone swears off alcohol occasionally, but that was a pivotal moment for me. 
Now I can have a very dry glass of white wine, but only one. This can seem antisocial, but at least I can drive everyone else home. There are some upsides to all this abstinence.
It soon became obvious that both natural and processed sugars caused the same symptoms. Dried fruit might have once been a healthy snack for me. 
But if I ate it now, aching limbs and a poor night’s sleep awaited.
Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad news. Soon, good things started to happen that made me stay off sugar. 
Having suffered from insomnia for more than a decade, I started sleeping well and so felt refreshed and clear-headed in the morning. 
And I was in less pain. And weight started to fall off me, and continued to do so until I’d reached the level that I’d always been until my late thirties: just under eight stone. I am still that weight now and wear size-8 clothes.
Feeling and looking better were incentives to keep going. But I also had to change how I thought about food. 
Rather than dwell on what I was missing, I had to say to myself that I didn’t miss being awake and in pain. 
Soon, anything sweet looked like poison to me. I’ve not fed my horse, Duke, a sugar cube since, either.
These days, I shop and cook differently, to ensure I have meals that are reasonably easy to prepare after work, to avoid going into a shaking sugar-low. It’s not too great a hardship.
I eat lots of vegetables, a fair amount of quality meat and cheese, a small amount of complex carbohydrates (so no bowls of pasta), and I spread out my fruit intake over the course of the day: one piece every four hours and no more. 
So yesterday, I had porridge for breakfast, some tasty homemade soup and fruit for lunch, and went out for dinner with a friend, opting for belly pork with greens.
Treats have also had to change. 
Out have gone cakes, biscuits and sweets. In their place are mixed nuts, cheese cubes and strips of dried meat. 
I’d always loved cheese, but now I am a cheese snob. I seek out unusual, local varieties at the farmers’ market and am a fierce critic of restaurant cheeseboards.
Despite this, my food bill has more than halved since I gave up sugar in all its forms. I can no longer be seduced by supermarkets’ three-for-two offers and bottles of sparkling wine at the end of the aisle. 
I’m more likely to buy a brace of pheasants, a decent Camembert and some salad from the farmers’ market.
From giving up sugar, I’m better off, thinner, sleep more easily and am not in so much pain. Perfect. 
Well, not entirely. There are moments when I do really miss the white stuff, and they are invariably social occasions.
Birthdays are grim. I feel awkward not being able to share in the cake, and don’t want to bring the mood of any party down by saying “No, thank you”, but I have to. Christmas is fine: I enjoy the roast and forget about the pudding.
But Shrove Tuesday last week was a disaster. I fell off the wagon in a big way, eating six pancakes. I slept badly and still ache now.
And I really do miss a good gin and tonic. It is possible to make your own with soda water and a pinch of stevia, a natural sweetener that comes from a South American herb – but somehow it’s just not quite the same.
Despite all that, I couldn’t go back to my sugar-eating days. I like sleeping and being a size-8 too much.
Source The Telegrph

One fizzy drink per day raises heart risk: And sugary diet could double the chance of death

Too much sugar can double your risk of dying from heart disease, warn researchers.

Scientists have discovered an alarming link between excessive consumption of sugar found in fizzy drinks or processed food and heart-related deaths.

They found that even one fizzy drink a day was enough to increase the chances of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by almost a third.

And for those consuming a quarter of their daily calories from sugar, the risk of heart-related death doubled.

Added sugar is that which is introduced to the processing of food products, rather than coming from natural sources such as fruit.

Dietary guidelines from the World Health Organisation recommend that added sugar should account for less than 10 per cent of calorie intake.

But British campaigners are calling for an upper limit of 5 per cent, along with a sugary drinks tax because they say sugar is the ‘new tobacco’.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action On Sugar, said: ‘This is an important study.

‘It clearly shows a high sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, highlighting the need for much more focus on reducing sugar to reduce obesity and cardiovascular risk.

‘Not only is added sugar an unnecessary cause of calories and a cause of tooth decay, but also predisposes to strokes and heart attacks. We need to take action now.’
 
The study, led by Dr Quanhe Yang, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, used US national health survey data to determine how much added sugar people were consuming.

Between 2005 and 2010, added sugar accounted for at least 10 per cent of the calories consumed by more than 70 per cent of the US population. bout a tenth of adults got a quarter or more of their calories from added sugar, says a report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The data was matched against heart disease mortality over a period of 14.6 years, during which 831 CVD deaths were recorded in the study group which was representative of the population.

The risk of heart-related death was 38 per cent higher for people who consumed 17 to 21 per cent of daily calories from sugar compared with those who were under 10 per cent. It was four times higher for those getting one-third or more of calories from added sugar.

For those consuming a quarter of their daily calories from sugar the risk of heart-related death doubled, researchers found. campaigners are now calling for a sugar tax - saying the substance is the new tobacco

For those consuming a quarter of their daily calories from sugar the risk of heart-related death doubled, researchers found. Campaigners are now calling for a sugar tax – saying the substance is the new tobacco

One can of sugar-sweetened drink every day increased the risk of CVD death by 29 per cent compared with drinking one can or less a week. A 360ml can of fizzy drink can contain eight teaspoons of sugar.

The researchers say the extra risk is not simply because people consuming more sugar are more likely to be overweight or obese, which makes heart problems more likely.

They claim excessive sugar has an independent effect on the body which is not yet understood. It may push up blood pressure and have adverse effects on blood fats and inflammation.

The typical Briton consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, and some consume as many as 46. The current WHO maximum is the equivalent of ten.

A sugar industry spokesman disputed the heart disease claim. Dr Glenys Jones, of Sugar Nutrition UK, said: ‘Experts across the globe, including the World Health Organisation and UK Department of Health, have reviewed the scientific evidence and have clearly stated that the consensus of research shows that eating a diet containing added sugar does not cause heart disease.’

 
Source Mail Online

The sugar tsars ‘in bed’ with confectionery giants

Experts who advise the Government on sugar consumption were under fire last night after it was revealed they receive funding from confectionery giants.

Five out of eight members of a committee tasked with helping to tackle Britain’s obesity epidemic have  ‘worryingly close’ ties with the food industry, it was claimed.

They include chairman Professor Ian Macdonald – one of the country’s leading nutritionists – who works as a paid advisor for Coca-Cola and Mars.

Yesterday critics said those who sat on the so-called ‘sugar committee’ could not be trusted because many of them are ‘in bed’ with food manufacturers.

The row comes as food giants are being urged to cut sugar in products amid fears it has become the ‘new tobacco’.

Doctors and academics say sugar levels must be reduced by at least 30 per cent to halt a wave of disease and death.

The typical Briton consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day – and there are nine in a can of Coca-Cola and eight in a 51g Mars Bar.

Professor Macdonald is paid £6,100 to sit on two advisory boards for Coca-Cola and also receives a larger payment for advising Mars.

But in 2009 he faced concerns over a potential conflict of interest and stood down until 2012.
 
His research at Nottingham University has now received more than £1million in the past three years from the food industry, including £300,000 from Mars.

Funding also comes from Unilever – the world’s largest ice cream manufacturer.

The disclosures yesterday prompted calls for the scientist to resign from the panel because of an ‘unacceptable’ conflict of interests.

Five who are funded by the industry
Simon Capewell, from campaign group Action on Sugar, said: ‘It’s like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.

If Ian Macdonald doesn’t step down, there will be real concerns that their recommendations will be prejudiced by commercial factors rather than scientific public health priorities.’

Cardiologist Aseem Malhotra added: ‘I don’t think that anyone who is in bed with the food industry should be advising the Government.’

Other committee members with ties to the sugar industry include Ian Johnson, a consultant for Swiss chocolate multinational Barry Callebaut.

Professor Ian Young and Professor Julie Lovegrove have also received funding from the sugar industry, while David Mela is an employee and a shareholder of Unilever. All eight members are paid for their work on the committee.

Danger: food giants ar ebeing urged to cut sugar in products amid fears it has become the 'new tobacco'
Danger: Food giants are being urged to cut sugar in products amid fears it has become the ‘new tobacco’

In an interview with Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, Professor Macdonald denied that he is too close to food companies.

He claimed it was important to confer with the industry and said he never discussed any of his government work with Coca-Cola or Mars.

Last night Public Health England said advisers must declare any potential conflicts of interest and be ‘independent and professionally impartial’.

A spokesman said there were processes in place to ensure ‘transparency and integrity’.

A report to be published later this year by the committee on the health impact of sugar consumption could have a massive impact on the food industry.

Source BBC News

Sugar is ‘the new tobacco’: Health chiefs tell food giants to slash levels by a third

Food giants are being told to cut the amount of sugar they use because it has become the ‘new tobacco’.

Doctors and academics say levels must be reduced by up to 30 per cent to halt a wave of disease and death.

They found that even zero-fat yoghurts can contain five teaspoons of sugar, while a can of Heinz tomato soup has four.

The equivalent of 11 teaspoons are found in a small Starbucks caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream. A Mars bar has eight.

‘Sugar is the new tobacco,’ said Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Liverpool.

‘Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical  industry focused on profit not health.

The obesity epidemic is generating a huge burden of disease and death.

Obesity and diabetes already cost the UK over £5billion a year. Without regulation, these costs will exceed £50billion by 2050.’

Doctors found that even zero-fat yoghurts can contain five teaspoons of sugar, while a can of heinz tomato soup has four
Doctors found that even zero-fat yoghurts can contain five teaspoons of sugar, while a can of Heinz tomato soup has four

Professor Capewell is part of a new US-UK campaign group – Action on Sugar – that says asking firms to make voluntary changes has failed.

The typical Briton consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day and some adults consume as many as 46.
The maximum intake recommended by the World Health Organisation is ten, although this guideline is likely to be halved.

The UN agency says there is ‘overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption’ being linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

A study by Action on Sugar found surprisingly high levels of sugar in many foods, including savoury products and healthy options.

The Pret a Manger Very Berry Latte with milk has 26.9g of sugar – the equivalent of seven teaspoons. Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% Fat Vanilla Yogurt has five.

Even Glaceau Vitamin Water, which is owned by Coca-Cola, has the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar in a 500ml bottle.

Action of Sugar said food firms should be able to reduce the amount of sugar they add to products by 20 to 30 per cent within three to five years, taking 100 calories a day out of the typical diet.

This would be enough to halt or even reverse rising levels of obesity and associated ill-health, it claimed.

Graham MacGregor, a professor at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London and chairman of Action on Sugar, said: ‘We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.

‘We must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks.

‘This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is adding to our foods.’

Dr Aseem , the group’s science director, said: ‘Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever, and causes no feeling of satiety.

Sugar

‘Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.

‘We must particularly protect children from this public health hazard and the food industry needs to immediately reduce the amount of sugar that they are adding, particularly to children’s foods, and stop targeting children with massive advertising for high calorie snacks and soft drinks.’

But sugar manufacturers rejected the claims of the health experts saying they were not supported by the consensus of scientific evidence.

Sugar Nutrition UK said the World Health Organisation published a review last year that found that any link between diabetes and body weight was due to overconsumption of calories and was not specific to sugar.

It said: ‘There have also been numerous studies, which have investigated potential links between sugar and diabetes, with experts from the British Dietetic Association, European Food Safety Authority, and Institute of Medicine being very clear that diabetes is not caused by eating sugar.

Respected expert committees have reviewed the evidence over many years and all have concluded that the balance of available evidence does not implicate sugar in any of the so-called lifestyle diseases.’

And Barbara Gallani, of the Food and Drink Federation, an industry group, also denied sugar was responsible for obesity.

She said the industry already provided clear information on sugar levels to consumers, using figures and colour-coded labels.

‘Sugars, or any other nutrient for that matter, consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet are not a cause of obesity, to which there is no simple or single solution,’ she added.

Professor Shrinath Reddy, a cardiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and member of the WHO panel of experts, disputed this conclusion.

He said there was ‘overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption links to obesity, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease’.

Yoni Freedhoff, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa, said sugar needed again to become an occasional treat rather than a regular ‘crutch’.

He said that added sugar had found its way into virtually everything we eat.

Source Mail Online

The demon drink: war on sugar

The tin of 7UP rolls to a stop at my feet. I pick it up, scowling at the kid on a bike who’d tossed it and missed the litter bin.

The can is green and shiny: “Put some play into your every day,” it says. “Escape to a carefree world… Don’t grow up. 7UP.”

And underneath, in tiny print, the real info (though you need a calculator to get to the truth): the lemon- and lime-flavoured drink contains a trace of salt, no fat, no fibre and 34.98g of sugar – eight teaspoons – and 135 calories.

That’s enough energy for about 15 minutes’ cross-country running. It’s cheap, too. Half the price of milk. If the stats are right, this teenager in Leith, who threw the empty tin, drinks 287 cans, or the equivalent, a year: more sugary drinks than any other child in Europe.

Not to mention a whole lot more sugar, in breakfast cereals, bread, and even chicken nuggets.

That is in part why Scottish children’s teeth are the same quality as those of children in Kazakhstan.

And perhaps why a 2010 survey of 17 countries found that only Mexicans and Americans were fatter than Scots. Of course sugary drinks make work for more people than dentists.

Though the drinks and food industry still hotly contests it, a scientific consensus is now emerging that fatal problems can be traced back to excessive sugar consumption.

Sugary drinks, addiction and obesity are inextricably linked: excess sugar in the diet may be a greater cause of obesity than fat is.

Obese people suffer from diabetes, cancer, fatty liver disease, dementia and heart problems to the extent that their healthcare costs are double those of people with a healthy body mass.

The “metabolic syndrome” maladies associated with insulin resistance and obesity – many authorities now just use the term “diabesity” – are expected soon to overtake tobacco as the leading cause of heart disease in the world. And perhaps of cancer, too.

Thus the “don’t grow up” line on that 7UP tin carries a grinding irony. Dr Robert Lustig puts it brutally: “The numbers don’t lie… as a rule, the fat die young.” He is a medical doctor and professor of clinical paediatrics at the University of California who has emerged as the guru of an increasingly noisy international campaign pressing governments to act as aggressively on sugary drinks as they have on tobacco.

The two are seen as directly analogous – unnecessary habits that cost people and society dear. Lustig believes that children are at the forefront of the sugar-driven health crisis because soft and fizzy drinks are the most efficient way of delivering this “poison”.

His word. So the 7UP tin is quite an artefact. It shows capitalism at its most efficient and rapacious: where ingredients – sugar, flavouring, water – costing almost nothing can be turned into a profit margin measured in the thousands of per cent.

It illustrates the extraordinary diversion of farmland and forest into the production of the almost useless while nearly a billion people on the planet are starving.

The can is an icon of the key dietary changes of the era, where we upped our simple carbohydrate intake – sugar – to the point that it started harming us in ways never seen before.

A monumental battle is just beginning between the sugar and food corporations and governments, which know that society can no longer bear the strain of the polysaccharide habit.

If the 40 years of war between government and Big Tobacco are anything to go by, the fight will be dirty. It’s a feature of modern life that the young have started getting the diseases of the old – problems with their hearts, their livers, cancers, diabetes and so on.

That this may be triggered by the changes in our diet has been known for at least 60 years. During the Korean war, US army surgeons got a chance to do something unusual: perform autopsies on lots of young people. These found plaque in the American casualties’ arteries – even among the teenagers. But there were no blockages in the hearts and valves of the youthful Korean dead.

At the time, this bizarre phenomenon was ascribed to the fat load in the GIs’ diet. But Americans who fought in Korea and Japan were fuelled by Coca-Cola and its rivals; and modern analysis now concludes that sugary drinks may have been the villain.

Most rich nations saw their sugar consumption increase by 30-40% between 1970 and 2000. In Scotland it quadrupled in 60 years.

A key moment was the introduction of “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS) – a fantastically cheap sugar made from America’s surplus maize (in Europe we manufacture something similar from sugar beet).

American government subsidy for the corn farmers – and high taxes on imported sugar – made the product cheap and attractive.

Though there were issues around taste, in 1980 Coca-Cola successfully switched to using HFCS. After water, sugar is, of course, the major ingredient in its product. Profit margins improved, and Coke’s rivals soon jumped aboard.

A can of sugar being poured into a glass Kicking the can: teenagers in Scotland drink an average of 287 cans a year – each containing eight spoons of sugar.

In the UK we eat and drink around 70% more sugar than the government says we should, and the obesity figures have been fairly stable since they peaked in the early 2000s. (Though with 30% of under-15s overweight, and consuming sugar just like adults, the epidemiologists are predicting the obesity rate to rise.)

But our sugar consumption peaked in 1982 and the soft drinks manufacturers say that now 40% of carbonated drinks contain “no added sugar”.

Why, then, have obesity rates not plunged? I found at least a piece of the answer to that at breakfast in my house, when a family with two young, and I think we’ll say “sturdy”, children came to stay.

Just a touch self-righteous, they spurned the low-sugar cereals – Weetabix, porridge – that our children eat. Instead they got busy with the blender, making vast watery smoothies with fruit juice, apples and bananas.

But the supermarket apple juice, I pointed out, contained 35% sugar – more than a can of Coke. And a ripe banana has four teaspoonfuls of sugar. “That’s natural sugar. It’s fructose. That means it’s from fruit,” I was told.

The truth is that, though consuming sugar along with the fibres of fruit is better than without, these middle-class healthy drinks may be higher in sugar than the Ribena my mother was fooled into giving us children for our health.

And that, too, had more sugar in it than Coke. Sugar is sugar – a simple chemical, and it makes little difference whether it’s crushed from an organic, hand-picked fruit or fracked in a factory out of corn and beet.

And fructose is just another of the monosaccharides that make sugar, though it’s the one with a friendly Latin-derived name.

In fact fructose is the key to all sugar – it makes it taste sweet. Table sugar is half glucose, half fructose. The high-fructose syrups the drinks manufacturers use are probably – they won’t say – made of 55% fructose: more sweetness for the sugar load.

Many scientists have marked fructose as the ring leader in the team of monosaccharides. Lustig, who likes to turn a phrase, calls it the Voldemort of sugars – and it is biggest in the sugar load of soft drinks.

A 240ml glass of orange juice might contain 120 calories of sugar, or sucrose; half of that will be fructose.

The fructose will all end up in the liver, which may not be able to metabolise (process) it fully, depleting vital chemicals in the organ and turning into fat.

“It’s not about the calories,” says Dr Lustig. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.” What is undeniable is that problems in the liver in turn contaminate and disable other systems, including the insulin production of the pancreas.

The effects are felt ultimately in the heart, the immune system and by producing cancers. Insulin resistance may also be a player in dementia.

“Fructose can fry your liver and cause all the same diseases as alcohol,” Dr Lustig continues. Key to the obesity debate is the charge that high insulin levels interfere with the hormone leptin, which is a signalling device that tells the brain when we’ve consumed enough.

So you drink or eat fructose, and then you want more food. Sugary soft drinks deliver the fructose fastest to the organs that can’t handle it. And, of course, they are largely consumed by those most vulnerable to diseases: the poor and the young.

For children, every extra daily serving above the average increases the chances of obesity by 60% . A soft drink bottle filled with sugar cubes Sweet success: we consume 70% more sugar than the government’s guideline figure.

The drinks industry and its science do not agree. Gavin Partington, the energetic director general of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), says: “A calorie is a calorie.” Dealing with the fat crisis is about helping people to use up those calories through exercise.

Across America though, health authorities appear to be coming round to Lustig’s view. Should we?

I put that to Professor David Colquhoun of University College London, a specialist in toxicology and a scourge of cod science through his Improbable Science blog and gloriously cantankerous tweeting.

Does he buy the anti-fructose lobby’s theories? “Bugger all is known with certainty about the effects of diet on health.

That’s why so much is written about it. The whole problem is that it’s all correlational stuff – there’s no causality proven.

Nevertheless the best current guess is that sugar is a much bigger problem than fat. And it’s addictive, which is why manufacturers do it (I’ll happily eat a whole bag of jelly babies). That can’t be good – so, yes, I’d say let’s tax it.” Punitive taxation on sugary drinks – already in place in some European countries – will be a long while coming to Britain.

The nutrition campaigners Sustain and 61 other charities and health organisations, including the Royal Society for Public Health, called on the chancellor to introduce a “sugary drinks duty” of 20p a litre in this year’s budget.

It would raise £1bn a year – some of which, they suggested, could usefully be spent on children’s health and free school meals. George Osborne stayed quiet; health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was sceptical. Far more influential than Professor Colquhoun, Lustig and any eminent academic is the food and beverage industry.

And that is, of course, busy leaning on the government to avoid any further tampering with its right to flog sugary drinks as healthy.

The BSDA, to which manufacturers such as Britvic and AG Barr hand queries, has stopped insisting that there is no proven link between sugar, soft drinks and obesity – its position until a few years ago. (This stonewalling claim is still the position of Associated British Foods, supplier of half of the UK’s sugar.)

Now the defence centres on the “unfair cost” to shoppers of a tax, and the 9% fall in sales, over the past 10 years, in added-sugar drinks.

“Sixty one per cent of soft drinks now contain no added sugar,” they claim. But the BSDA’s stats are dubious: for a start, they include 2bn litres of bottled mineral waters – 15% of all soft drinks. And, of course, the carton juices contain “no added sugar” – but as we’ve seen, many have more sugar in them than Coke.

But there are extraordinary things going on in America, for which Lustig – and his 3.6m-hit YouTube film Sugar: The Bitter Truth – can take some credit. More than 30 state and city legislatures, from Hawaii to New York, have discussed or proposed curbs on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) ranging from bans in schools to cuts in portion sizes and a sales tax. New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has proposed removing SSBs from state food assistance programmes.

He is currently fighting a legal battle to enforce a city-wide ban on “supersize” servings of sugary drinks. But petitions against the ban have gathered more than half a million signatures. Back here in Leith the empty Irn-Bru, Fruit Shoot and Red Cola bottles glint in the grass around our local park. The local Italian ice-cream shop is selling Irn-Bru sorbet.

You can get six litres of 35% sugar drinks for just £2 down the road in Iceland. That’s just 50p to put an adult into Lustig’s fructose danger zone.

What’s wrong with water, asks Annie Anderson, professor of public health nutrition at Dundee University. “We need to promote water drinking: it’s cool, refreshing, thirst-quenching and healthy!” We’ve always taken a lot of sugar in Scotland.

Our grandparents put sugar-ally sticks – liquorice and molasses – under the bed in a bowl of water overnight (next to the bedpan), to drink the pale brown brew first thing in the morning.

The journalist Audrey Gillan, who grew up in a Glasgow housing scheme, remembers the visits of the “gingers” van, delivering bottles of limeade on credit, like the milkman. Workers in the Clyde shipyards were proud to be fuelled on “lemonade and a jilly piece”: sugar, then and now, is cheap energy for the poor, and it still provides nearly 20% of Scottish calorie intake for adults and children.

Though the percentage is dropping slightly, it’s still nearly twice what it should be. According to the historian and nutritionist Maisie Steven, Scots kids eat four times the amount of sugar they did in 1942. Up the road in Fife, farmer Mike Small has high hopes for the campaign for a Scottish tax on SSBs: he and his sustainable food campaign, the Fife Diet, will launch a new manifesto for it in September. “It’s going to happen, because it’s just so bloody obvious.

There was a report just last month from Scottish doctors saying that type 2 diabetes has doubled. They’re amputating limbs from people in their 20s.” Forms of SSB tax have already started in Denmark, France, Finland and Hungary.

Scotland, Small says, is in the mood to follow. “There’s an opportunity. The Scottish government is in the right frame of mind for doing stuff that’s about regulatory control, rather than soft policies for behavioural change. Because those just don’t work with tobacco, alcohol and sugary beverages.

These are addictive substances.” And the soft drinks industry’s defence? “Propaganda to blanket their profiteering – profiteering that causes illness like diabetes. Unforgivable.” The Scottish government is – I’m told – considering a tax on sugary drinks.

But first it has to conclude a battle over a minimum alcohol price (an idea of David Cameron’s that he has already dropped).

It’s been held up in the courts for two years, the fight led by the Scotch Whisky Association – which, apart from its worries about jobs and profits, has a core belief that states should not be able to tax companies punitively on health grounds. And that is the heart of the matter.

Source The Guardian