London researchers have argued that sugar should make up no more than 3% of total energy intake in people’s diet, in order to tackle the issue of tooth decay. To do so, experts have called on public establishments to ban sugary food and have suggested a tax on sugar.
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Experts from the University College London (UCL) and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have warned in a new study that dental issues among western populations are on the rise because people eat food that contains too much sugar – unlike populations in Africa or Asia, who do not have such issues.
Lead author Aubrey Sheiham, professor of dental public health at UCL said, “Tooth decay is a serious problem worldwide and reducing sugars intake makes a huge difference.”
Sugar is found to be the only reason for tooth decay in children and adults, and according to experts should not be more than 3% of total energy intake – less than the 5% previously argued.
Experts recommend radical actions, such as a ban of sugary foods from publicly supported establishments, like hospitals and schools, and a call on the food industry to change the labels and composition of its products in order to reduce the sugar amount. A tax on sugar itself has also been recommended.
Co-author Philip James, professor of nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine explained, “A sugars tax should be developed to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks. This would be simplest as a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, since taxing individual foods depending on their sugar content is an enormously complex administrative process.
“The retail price of sugary drinks and sugar rich foods needs to increase by at least 20% to have a reasonable effect on consumer demand so this means a major tax on sugars as a commodity. The level will depend on expert analyses but my guess is that a 100% tax might be required.”
Previously, health bodies including the World Health Organisation suggested that sugar intake should be around 5% of dietary energy. The UK government has been urged to take action and said it is considering supporting a fizzy drink tax to try reduce Britons’ sugar intake, which exceeds recommendation by 50%.
Photo: Kurtis Garbutt via Flickr