What’s the big deal about sugar?

I recently wrote a report investigating the idea of a sugar tax for my assignment which was to write report about a biological issue. The main issue that everyone keeps bringing up is that sugar causes obesity. I researched this subject and here is what I found.

 

Obesity – Should we have a sugar tax?
Emily Christensen, August 2014

Introduction

Obesity is a serious health issue that is becoming a problem in New Zealand. Around 35 percent of New Zealanders over 15 are overweight and 25.4 per cent are obese, this issue is growing just like our waistlines.
There are researchers who believe that sugar is one of the main causes of obesity. They have taken action by introducing the idea of a sugar tax that will be placed on sugar and products containing sugar.

Why is obesity a problem?

1. Research has highlighted the fact that as people become overweight or obese they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancers and many other health issues and diseases.

2. Obesity is costing New Zealand millions of dollars each year. Researchers say that a study based on figures from 2006 shows that obesity is costing New Zealand between $722 million and $849 million a year. Up to 4.4 per cent of New Zealand’s healthcare cost (an estimated $624 million) was spent on obesity. In addition, there were costs of between $98 million and $225 million due to loss of productivity from obesity.

What is the link between sugar and obesity?

The problem is sugar contains fructose molecules. Fructose is the bad guy in this situation because we can only process around 15 grams of fructose per day. Fructose is in many processed foods such as fizzy drinks, cakes, cookies, and fruit juices. The shocker is that one average can of fizzy contains 22 grams of fructose – you can go way over your daily intake of fructose by drinking just one can of fizzy drink! Any extra fructose that we consume will be stored as fat cells in our body.
Because excess fructose is stored almost instantly as fat cells, our bodies don’t get to use that energy straight away so we still feel hungry because our bodies haven’t recognised that we have consumed calories. We then consume more calories to satisfy our appetites. This results in somewhat of a vicious calorie munching cycle that could easily lead to weight problems.

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What is a sugar tax and how would we implement it?

A sugar tax will imply that sugar and any related sugar products will be under a tax. A rise in price will make the sugary food items less accessible and affordable, giving the public an incentive to choose healthier options.

Tony Falkenstein introduced his sugar tax plans that proposed a 20 per cent tax on all products containing more than 10 per cent sugar content. He plans to reduce the sugar content by 1 per cent every year, eventually the 20 per cent tax would include all products containing more than 4 per cent sugar. He believes that sugar is an addiction and the public should be “gently weaned” of their sugar addictions.

Jim Mcveagh contradicted Tony Falkenstein by saying “immediately one can see the absolute pointlessness of a sugar tax”. He makes some good points stating that a sugar tax would mean that foods such as potatoes, rice and white bread would be taxed and which would result in carbohydrates and all most all food being taxed. He suggests that sugar is not an addiction and that we eat fats and carbohydrates because we are “wired” to like high-calorie foods. He doesn’t dismiss the idea that a sugar tax will help us to consume less sugar, but he believes that we should look into what exactly would be taxed under this sugar tax.

Jim Mcveagh’s list:

• Honey 80% sugar
• Packet mixed nuts and raisins 27% (without raisins 5%)
• Tomato sauce 16% sugar (Baked beans 8.2%)
• Fruit juice 10.4%
• Peanut butter 5%
• Milk 4.2%
• Bread 2%
• Packet of Pringles 1%

Conclusion (what I think)

I think sugar contributes to obesity because it contains calories just like any other food. I think eating less sugar would be a smart move to assist in reducing obesity numbers, but just cutting sugar from your diet would not cure the obesity problem completely.
I believe that to naturally maintain a healthy weight you need to consume a balanced diet and participate in regular exercise. I think people should have the freedom to choose what they consume. Making healthy choices and allowing treats now and again will allow you to have a happy wellbeing, control over your weight and lead a healthy lifestyle.

So that’s my view on things. Please feel free to leave a comment with your views/opinions on this matter.

Information sources

I’m also aware that Nigel Latta’s documentary “Is Sugar The New Fat?” was just aired on NZ televison, just after I wrote this report (it’s funny how thing happen like that!), here are the links to articles relating to Nigel Latta’s documentary:

 

Happy reading

Em xo

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