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Is brown sugar healthier than white?

Call to halve target for added sugar

Sugar: There are growing concerns about sugar and health


People need to more than halve their intake of added sugar to tackle the obesity crisis, according to scientific advice for the government in England.

A draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says sugar added to food or naturally present in fruit juice and honey should account for 5% of energy intake.

Many fail to meet the old 10% target.

The sugar industry said “demonising one ingredient” would not “solve the obesity epidemic”.

The body reviewed 600 scientific studies on the evidence of carbohydrates – including sugar – on health to develop the new recommendations.

One 330ml can of fizzy pop would take a typical adult up to the proposed 5% daily allowance, without factoring in sugar from any other source.

“There is also an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type-2 diabetes.

“In children there is clear demonstration that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with obesity.

“By reducing it to 5% you would reduce the risk of all of those things, the challenge will be to get there.”

The target of 5% of energy intake from free sugars amounts to 25g for women (five to six teaspoons) and 35g (seven to eight teaspoons) for men, based on the average diet.

Daily added sugar intake by age group

‘Silver bullet’

Public Health England will now reconsider its recommendations on fruit juice and smoothies in its five-a-day campaign.

The current advice from the NHS is that juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day, while a smoothie may count as more than one portion, depending on how it is made.

It will also investigate measures to protect children from food advertising while online and whether a sugar tax would have any merit.

Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “We are very concerned around sugar intakes in England.

“It doesn’t mean having a completely different diet from today, it is thinking about swapping high sugar foods for a lower sugar alternative.

“Instead of fizzy drink, have water or low-fat milk, instead of a chocolate bar, have a piece of fruit.”

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By James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC news online

Orange juice

There’s something noticeably missing from a call to halve added sugar – how would you go about doing it?

This group was set up to assess the science and determine what we should be eating. Its role was not to come up with policies.

The target of 5% is a huge challenge when teenagers are currently getting 15% of their calories from added sugar.

One option that doctors have called for is a tax on sugary drinks. The measure is being tried in Mexico, although there is still little evidence on its impact.

The tough decisions are all still to come – what measures will the public accept and how can we be encouraged to eat less sugar without driving us back into the arms of saturated fat and salt?

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The SACN advice echoes an announcement by the World Health Organization in March.

Its draft guidelines reiterated that sugars should constitute no more than 10% of energy intake and that people and governments should be aiming for 5%.

The limits would apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said: “SACN’s comprehensive analysis of the evidence on carbohydrates has looked at the role of carbohydrates, including sugars and fibre in the diet. We will look at the content of the report and its recommendations over the next few weeks with the intention of engaging in the consultation process and related discussions.”

Dr Julian Cooper, head of food science at AB Sugar, said targeting sugar was not a “silver bullet” and people should balance their calorie intake against how much they exercise.


The campaign group, Action on Sugar, said the development was “fantastic” news.

The group’s chairman Prof Graham MacGregor argued: “{Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must start by setting targets for reducing sugar in soft drinks this summer and move responsibility for nutrition to an independent body such as the Food Standards Agency so that the soft drinks and food industry are given a level playing field, with the threat of regulation to ensure the whole of the food industry comply.

“Before another million British kids become obese.”

Public Health Minister for England, Jane Ellison, said: “We know eating too much sugar can have a significant impact on health, and this draft advice confirms that.

“We want to help people make healthier choices and get the nation into healthy habits for life. This report will inform the important debate taking place about sugar.”

via BBC News – Call to halve target for added sugar.

Campaigners vow to cut sugar in food

A campaign group has been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.

Action on Sugar has been set up by the team behind Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash), which has pushed for cuts to salt intake since the 1990s.

The new group aims to help people avoid “hidden sugars” and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

It believes a 20% to 30% reduction in three to five years is within reach.

Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar bit by bit so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.

It says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease in a way that “is practical, will work and will cost very little”.

‘Completely unnecessary’

The group listed flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread as just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.

A favourite tactic of Cash has been to name and shame products with large quantities of salt.

Action on Sugar chairman Graham MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and set up Cash in 1996, said: “We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.

“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 currently adding to our foods.”

Sugar in food

Heinz tomato soup

Well-known food and drink products and their sugar content:

  • Starbucks caramel frappuccino with whipped cream with skimmed milk (tall): 273kcal; 11 teaspoons of sugar
  • Coca Cola Original (330ml): 139kcal; 9 teaspoons of sugar
  • Muller Crunch Corner Strawberry Shortcakre Yogurt (135g):212kcal; 6 teaspoons of sugar
  • Yeo Valley Family Farm 0% Fat Vanilla Yogurt (150g): 120kcal; 5 teaspoons of sugar
  • Kellogg’s Frosties with semi-skimmed milk (30g): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Glaceau Vitamin Water, Defence (500ml): 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Heinz Classic Tomato Soup (300g): 171kcals; 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • Ragu Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce (200g): 80kcals; 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Crunchy Oat Granola Cinnamon Bars (40g):186kcal; 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup (15ml): 18kcal; 1 teaspoon of sugar

Source: Action on Sugar

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: “Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety.

The size of some of the cups Coca-cola is sold in “need to come down” says president of Coca-cola Europe James Quincey

“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.”

via BBC News – Campaigners vow to cut sugar in food.

Sugar: Five foods surprisingly high in sugar

We need to reduce our sugar intake, says a new campaign group. But some food have a surprisingly high amount of sugar added to them.

Action on Sugar has been launched to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks. The aim is to help people avoid “hidden sugars” and get manufacturers to reduce how much they use.

Some foods have surprisingly high amounts of sugar added to them. Here are five.

Fat free doesn’t mean sugar free, especially when it comes to yoghurt. It’s often laden with sugar to keep flavour and texture when fat is removed. A 150g (5oz) serving of some 0% fat yogurts can contain as much as 20g (0.7oz) of sugar – the equivalent of five teaspoons, says Action on Sugar. That’s getting on for half of a woman’s daily recommended intake of added sugar, which is 50g (1.7oz). It’s 70g (2.5oz) for men.

“The problem is people want low-fat food but they want it look and taste like full-fat food,” says dietician Dr Sarah Schenker. “To achieve this something else, like sugar, is put in when the fat is removed. If people want healthier food they need to accept it might look and taste a bit different.”

tomato-based pasta sauce boasts certain health benefits, but a shop-bought one can also be packed with sugar. It’s often added to make the sauce taste less acidic. A third of an average-sized jar, roughly 150g (5oz), can contain over over 13g (0.5oz) of sugar. That’s nearly four teaspoons of sugar.

And while coleslaw is mostly shredded vegetables, it also comes with an added serving of sugar. The mayonnaise is largely to blame. One tablespoon of a shop-bought coleslaw, roughly 50g (1.7oz), can contain up to 4g (0.14oz) of sugar. A couple of spoonfuls on your plate is equivalent to a couple of teaspoons of sugar.

“Sauces are often high in sugar,” says Dr Schenker.

Water is good, right? Depends what type.“Enhanced water” has vitamins added to it but sugar as well. A 500ml (18fl oz) glass of some brands contains 15g (0.5oz) of sugar, the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar.

Finally, there is the staple of many people’s day – bread. The sugar content in the average slice of processed bread varies but can be as high 3g (0.1oz). If a woman has toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch she is almost at a quarter of her recommended daily intake for added sugar.

“Often savoury does not mean low sugar,” says Dr Schenker.

via BBC News – Sugar: Five foods surprisingly high in sugar.

Sugar: The family that gave it up

Family meal
How hard is it to avoid sugar entirely in family meals?

When their daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the whole Burt family gave up sugar. Just how hard was it?

“For about a month it was like having a hangover and being so very groggy, lethargic, I couldn’t concentrate,” said Jason Burt, “and then gradually it was like a cloud lifting.”

Jason Burt’s daughter Lucy, who is 16, found out she had diabetes Type 1, also known as diabetes mellitus, in September 2011.

It means the pancreas does not produce insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. If the amount of glucose in the blood is too high, the body’s organs may be damaged.

The family, which includes two other children Jack, 12 and Emma, 18, has always lived what Jason calls a holistic life, with homeopathy and home schooling also a part of their lifestyle – so when Lucy was diagnosed it was a shock.

Their doctor said that Lucy should check her blood levels regularly, inject insulin, but continue to eat a normal, balanced diet.

However Jason and his wife Clare felt that they and their three children should all give up sugar.

“It was a solidarity thing… it just made obvious sense that by giving up sugar, we’re supporting her in a diet that we think is the best diet for her and her diabetes,” Jason Burt told Radio 4’s Food Programme.

They went against the doctor’s advice, and have been following a low carbohydrate, no sugar, high protein, high fat diet, with lots of vegetables.

They said it was very hard and uncomfortable to begin with, but now they all feel healthier, have higher levels of concentration, eat less overall, and their food bill has gone down too.

Lucy Burt’s diabetes is under control. She still takes a bit of insulin, but is mostly stable.

Jason and Clare Burt
Jason and Clare Burt’s family have a sugar-free, low carbohydrate, high protein diet

As a family they worked out they have lost 8.5 stone, with Jason and Clare losing three each.

“I suppose and you started to feel more awake, more aware and since then I haven’t looked back because my energy levels have been constantly good,” said Jason Burt.

“I lost nearly three stone which to be fair I had a lot to lose. There’s still more I could do with losing… and energy levels have just been much better.”

Their blood pressure is the same but they have not had cholesterol tests.

It has been particularly hard for the family to give up sugar, as they own a business called Farmhouse Cookery making 2500-3000 cakes a week supplying farm shops in the South East.

Clare Burt said she had to wrestle with balancing the two very different aspects of her life.

“I really struggled with it when Lucy was first diagnosed.

Farmhouse cookery cake stall
The Burts have plenty of other willing testers to taste the cakes that they can no longer sample

“It just felt that our home life and our work life weren’t particularly congruent and that didn’t sit well with me and it gave me quite a few sleepless nights.

“But I had a conversation with a good friend who reminded me that people won’t stop eating cakes just because Lucy has been diagnosed with diabetes.”

“Initially it did feel wrong but we still have to pay our bills, that’s the reality of it all and it would take us time to evolve the business into something where we didn’t use sugar,” says Jason.

“Maybe in time we’ll look at going into more savoury products rather than being just a confectionary bakery. That might be one answer. But I think the reality of life is that we need to keep the business going, we need to keep the money that it generates and it’s still doing quite well.”

They use about half a tonne of sugar a week in their baking – mainly caster sugar and icing sugar but also a dark brown sugar, a dark muscovado sugar, a light muscovado sugar, and black treacle, golden syrup and honey.

As any good cook knows, you have to taste test your recipes as you go.

Having given up sugar, how do they taste what they are making?

“We’re not short cake tasters are we, there are plenty of volunteers. If absolutely necessary we will try tiny amounts,” says Clare.

“The good thing here is that the recipes haven’t changed for 30 years. Most things taste sweet so in that respect we’re not great tasters but there are plenty of people that are.”

Despite the family having given up sugar, Jason feels strongly that the government has got its policy the wrong way round on obesity by blaming fat not sugar.

He also feels that big companies get away with misleading marketing when they advertise their products as low fat, when they might have very high sugar levels.

Clare thinks eliminating sugar from a diet entirely is tricky, and advocates moderation.

“For me growing up cake was always a Sunday afternoon treat it wasn’t an everyday occurrence but now it’s very different for the children, the younger generations today,” she said.

“Cakes or biscuits or some sweet thing or a number of sweet things are daily occurrences. It’s just become excessive. If everything’s in moderation then surely that’s OK.”


Scientists confirm sugar is a diet evil

sugar diet

SWEET EVIL: A just-in comprehensive NZ medical study confirms that cutting down on sugar will help you lose weight.

Major research published today has provided compelling backing for claims that dieters weaning themselves off sugar will see their waistlines shrink.

An Otago University-led study into the effects of sugar, published in the British Medical Journal, found cutting down on the sweetener would see a “small but significant” reduction in body weight.

The study, commissioned by the World Health Organisation, says battling sugary diets should be part of a global strategy to tackle the obesity epidemic.

Researchers examined 8000 trials and 10,000 observational studies published internationally up to December 2011.

They then analysed nearly 70 studies which specifically looked at sugar’s effect on body weight.

They found that by cutting down sugar intake over a medium term, an adult could lose 0.8 kilograms.

Increasing sugar intake over the same period could lead to a 0.75kg increase in weight.

The research found that for children the results were less consistent because they were less likely to stick to a strict diet regime, but those who guzzled sugary drinks were much more likely to be overweight.

Dr Lisa Te Morenga, one of the authors of the research, said it made sense to cut back on sugar.

“It seems easier to over-eat if your diet includes lots of sugary foods and drinks,” she said.

“When you overeat you gain weight.”

Though the perils of sugar have enjoyed a lot of attention in recent years, Te Morenga said this was one of the first studies to offer compelling evidence.

“There have been a lot of claims in the media about the dangers of sugar, but it hasn’t really been backed up by a lot of strong research,” she said.

One scientific article was released last year by a US pediatrician about the toxic nature of sugar, but it was very theoretical, she said.

“[Other] research was based on very short-term studies in humans who are fed a lot of sugar, or animal studies,” said Te Morenga.

“So when you look at really strong, sound evidence showing sugar intakes at levels that people might actually eat, there is not a lot of strong evidence there.”

She said the research could be used by the World Health Organisation to shape food policy.


Sugar ‘comforts babies during immunisations’

Crying baby immunised
Babies given sugar beforehand cried less

It appears that sugar really may help the medicine go down – studies suggest a few drops can comfort babies who are having their jabs.

The Cochrane team reviewed 14 studies involving more than 1,500 infants going for routine childhood immunisations or a heel-prick blood test.

Babies given a sugary solution to suck as they were about to be injected cried far less than those given water.

While sugar may pacify, it is unclear if it also relieves pain.

Experts say more research is needed to explore this.

If you do the usual holding and comforting, I’m not sure how much sucrose would add”

Dr David Elliman Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

A small study published a couple of years ago in The Lancet medical journal looked at the responses of 44 infants given either sugar or water as they had a heel-prick blood test.

The sugar did not appear to make a difference to pain – all babies similarly grimaced and had comparable electrical activity measured with EEG readings in areas of the brain that process pain.

The lead researcher in the Cochrane review, Dr Manal Kassab of the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irib, Jordan, said: “Giving babies something sweet to taste before injections may stop them from crying for as long.

“Although we can’t confidently say that sugary solutions reduce needle pain, these results do look promising.”

Dr David Elliman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said sugar solution was not used routinely in practice.

“Generally, doctors recommend that the mother holds the baby and comforts it while they have their immunisation. If she is breastfeeding still, she might want to breastfeed her baby at the same time.

“With older children we try to distract them. If you do the usual holding and comforting, I’m not sure how much sucrose would add.

“What we do know is that using a shorter needle tends to be more painful, even though this might seem counterintuitive. That’s because the injections need to go into the muscle.”

By the time a child has reached its second birthday it should have had around 10 different injections to protect against various infectious diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella.




Why We Can’t Trust Cereal Companies to Self-Regulate

Breakfast food marketers insist that children won’t eat cereals that aren’t doused in sugar. They’re wrong. frootloops-615.jpgburritoes/Flickr

Breakfast is good. Children who eat breakfast every day are less likely to be obese, and more likely to be well-nourished than those who miss it. Cereals can be an excellent, fairly low-calorie means of delivering needed nutrients like whole grains and fiber. And, of course, there is the milk that goes along with it. On these matters, we and the cereal companies agree.

Where we disagree is how sweet these cereals must be, and which cereals should be marketed to children. The companies have a range of cereals in their portfolios. Why then, do they not market their better cereals — regular Cheerios, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Quaker Oatmeal Squares — to children? These cereals are high in whole grains and much lower in sodium and added sugars. They are hard for nutritionists to object to. But the companies, led by General Mills and Kellogg, claim that children will not eat cereal unless the cereals are highly sweetened. In a piece in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, top nutrition officials from these two companies said, “Food does not become nutrition until it is eaten,” implying that cereals without lots of sugar will not leave the box.

We found in a study that when children are served low-sugar versions of cereals (Corn Flakes vs. Frosted Flakes for example), they eat the amount a child should have for breakfast, and add fruit and a small amount of sugar to do the sweetening. Children served high-sugar cereals consume much more cereal and sugar (from the cereal), and add less fruit. It is no wonder companies want to market the high-sugar versions to children — they eat more cereal. The amount of excess sugar in children’s cereals is depicted in a video using Cheerios vs. Honey Nut Cheerios as examples.

How do the companies navigate the tricky ground they stand on? They are feeling pressure about the scourge of childhood obesity, from the White House to leading medical groups, and hence the threat of government regulation looms large. But the basic business model is to maximize profits. Hence selling products that children overconsume.

One solution the industry itself proposes is self-regulation. The industry can argue that it will police itself — that it will act in the best interests of children, and that government regulation will not be necessary. An example is the participation of General Mills, Kellogg, and Post in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), which is “designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.”

Industry self-regulation is worth a try. If the companies can develop ways of protecting children from poor nutrition influences and not require government involvement, everyone wins. The question is whether industry promises get fulfilled — and whether they are meaningful promises to begin with. In order to answer these questions, it is important to have objective data on industry sales and marketing practices, and to track these over time to see if changes are occurring.

Our team at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is doing just that. Three years ago, we released a comprehensive report on the marketing of breakfast cereals to children. The report documented that cereal companies were speaking to children early, often, and when parents weren’t looking. The least healthy cereals were the ones most aggressively marketed to children. Cereal companies were targeting children not only with television ads but through websites containing “advergames” and other branded activities, and advertising on popular kids’ websites like

The companies have promised to do better, including enhancing the nutritional quality of cereals and expanding CFBAI advertising requirements. Thus, we launched a three-year follow up project using the same methods, to determine whether the children’s cereal landscape has improved. This report, Cereal Facts 2012, is being released today.

Our study examined the nutritional quality of more than 100 brands and nearly 300 individual varieties of cereal marketed to children, families, and adults. There is some good news:

  • General Mills and Kellogg delivered on their promise to improve nutritional quality by reducing sodium. General Mills also reduced the sugar in its child brands, and is halfway toward fulfilling its promise to reduce the sugar per serving to “single digits.”
  • Some brands reduced child-targeted advertising. The most notable change was that General Mills and Post discontinued their and websites.

Sadly, there is more bad news than good:

  • From 2008 to 2011, total media spending to promote child-targeted cereals increased by 34 percent.
  • Companies spend more to advertise child brands than they spend on the healthier adult brands.
  • The discontinuation of popular cereal-company advergame websites and associated banner advertising was partially offset by the introduction of new child-targeted websites and increased banner advertising for individual brands and existing websites. For example, Post replaced with, and General Mills introduced advergame sites for Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
  • Companies are developing yet new ways to target children. Kellogg introduced the first food company advergame for mobile phones and tablets targeted to children for Apple Jacks.
  • Post did not fulfill its nutrition promise to lower the sugar content of Pebbles cereals to 9 grams per serving.
  • Hispanic and black youth exposure to cereal marketing increased from 2008 to 2011.The trend is of particular concern, as these young people face the highest rates of obesity and related diseases.
  • Some new products, such as Kellogg’s Krave cereal, continue the unfortunate tradition of implied health benefits on the package, child-oriented contests, and heavy exposure of children and teens to marketing, despite poor nutrition profiles.

The bottom line? Cereal marketing to children in 2012 looks much the same as it did in 2009. In 2009, it was easy to quantify the degree to which the companies promoted their healthiest cereals to children — there was none. How much is there today? None. Cereal companies continue to push their least nutritious products — Froot Loops, Reese’s Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms — directly to children. Children also continue to see more advertising for cereals than for any other category of packaged food or beverage.

There is no doubt that children need protection from the masterful and ubiquitous marketing by companies of products known to be unhealthy. Industry’s promises to behave better have an empty ring when they continue the marketing of their least healthy products to children.

The Atlantic

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