Sugar is dominating the headlines once again so we thought it would be useful to give you a quick summary of why this is big news again, what the background is, and what it really means to everyday diet and health advice.
Two different reports have been published today which have sparked the media frenzy. Although both are looking into carbohydrates, including sugar, they are very different in terms of their remits and outcomes. One is a scientific review of all the evidence linking carbohydrates (in all forms) to health and disease, whilst the other is specifically looking into sugar reduction and how this could benefit public health.
Here is our snapshot view of what each paper is trying to achieve.
SACN is a government body comprising of a group of leading academics, scientists and medical professionals whose job it is to review scientific evidence relating diet and nutrition to health.
This report was commissioned to review what we know about carbohydrates as a whole – including complex carbohydrates such as starches, wholegrain and fibre, and simple carbohydrates including glucose, fructose, sucrose (sugar as we know it) and lactose, and how they can affect our health either in a positive or a negative way. They looked at outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes and cancers, and whether carbohydrates affected these either in a negative or a positive way.
Public Health England is a government body established in April 2013. It brings together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations, working with national and local government, industry and the NHS to protect and improve the nation's health and support healthier choices.
The action paper released today is looking into the different ways that the intake of free sugars (added sugar, sugar in fruit juices and sugar in honey) in the UK diet could be reduced. The report is based on the evidence found in the SACN review on carbohydrates.
Sugar is big news at the moment – there's no doubt about that! We are eating too much sugar as a population in the UK, and there are some associations with some foods and drinks, and an increased risk of disease. However there remains very little evidence directly linking sugar intake per se, with diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In fact it is diet and lifestyle OVERALL that is to blame...too many calories, being overweight and obese, not being active enough and smoking to name a few.
That said there is always room for improvement, and as a nation we are eating more than the recommended amount of sugar in our diets. Cutting down on sugar is certainly something we should all look at. Do you have too many sugary drinks? Do you add sugar to our tea and coffee? How many cakes and biscuits are you eating? But this must be done in the context of an overall healthy and balanced diet. Making simple swaps in your diet can make all the difference. Reduce your sugar and fat intake and introduce healthier options such as more complex carbohydrates.
Making small changes in your diet can make all the difference. Nutracheck is about balance – we call it the 80:20 rule...be healthy 80% of the time, then you can let your hair down a bit the other 20%. No food is banned but making healthier choices most of the time means you'll be sticking to your calorie allowance and seeing the weight loss you are hoping for. Plus if you are eating less high calorie (sugary) foods to stay within your reduced calorie allowance, you will naturally be consuming less sugar.
Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is just one way to become healthier. Combining sugar reduction with a reduction in fat, an increase in more complex carbohydrates and fibre, plenty of fruit and veg, plenty of low fat dairy foods and as much activity as you can manage will set you on the road to health.
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.