Primary School Kids 'Eat Own Weight in Sugar'

Peter Russell

January 04, 2016

Parents are being urged to get to grips with how much sugar their kids are eating and drinking as new figures show that young children are consuming the equivalent of 5,543 sugar cubes each year.

A new 'Sugar Smart' app is being launched to help parents check how much sugar is contained in everyday food and drinks.

Health Problems

To coincide with the campaign, Change4Life is releasing a short film to warn about how too much sugar can damage health, including weight problems, tooth decay and the increased risk of diabetes and heart disease in later life.

Sugar Boy. Source: YouTube

The cartoon, called Sugar Boy, graphically shows a primary school child made up entirely of 4g sugar cubes to underline the statistic that kids aged 4 to 10 consume around 22 kg (48.5 lbs) of sugar each year - the weight of an average 5-year-old.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, says in a statement: "Children are having too much sugar - three times the maximum recommended amount. This can lead to painful tooth decay, weight gain and obesity, which can also affect children's wellbeing as they are more likely to be bullied, have low self-esteem and miss school.

"Children aged 5 shouldn't have more than 19 gs of sugar per day - that's five cubes - but it's very easy to have more."

'A Tricky Challenge': Jamelia

Singer and TV presenter Jamelia is backing the campaign and starring in further Sugar Smart films. She says: "One of the trickiest challenges as a mum is trying to avoid sugar sneaking into my children's diets. Supporting this new Change4Life campaign has opened my eyes to how much sugar is in the everyday food and drink we eat and drink.

"It's so important to take control of the amount of sugar our kids are eating and act now."

The new Sugar Smart app, available to download for free on Apple and Android phones, works by scanning the barcode of food and drink products to reveal the amount of sugar it contains in cubes and grams.

The campaign reveals the sugar content of everyday food and drink. For instance:

  • A chocolate bar contains the equivalent of 6 cubes of sugar (4g each)

  • A small carton or pouch of juice drink contains over 5 cubes

  • There are 9 sugar cubes in a can of cola.

Eating and drinking any one of these 3 items would take a child over their recommended maximum sugar intake for one day.

The campaign and the phone app have the backing of supermarkets Tesco, Aldi, Morrison's, The Co-operative Food and Asda, and food manufacturers Weetabix, New York Bagels and Flora.

"I'd recommend all parents download the Sugar Smart app to uncover sugar that's in their everyday food and drink to make healthier choices when food shopping," says Jamelia.

‘Unnecessary Pain’

Last year the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommended that people should halve the amount of sugar in their diet to cut the number of people who are obese or have tooth decay and diabetes.

It coincided with calls from a number of health bodies for the government to introduce a 'sugar tax' on sweetened drinks to reduce obesity rates, particularly among children. In November, the idea was endorsed by the all-party Commons Health Committee.

According to Public Health England a fifth of 4- to 5-year-olds and a third of 10- to 11-year olds are overweight or obese.It says overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, making them more prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Public Health England say obesity costs the NHS £5.1 billion per year with the figure projected to rise to £9.7 billion by 2050.

A Tax On Sugar?

Responding to the launch of the campaign in a statement, Professor Russell Viner of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says: "Eating too much sugar in childhood not only causes children unnecessary pain and discomfort through tooth decay - of which nearly half of 8-year-olds suffer - but it also enables obesity to thrive, putting children at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma and joint problems - conditions that we as paediatricians are seeing much earlier than ever before."

Professor Viner adds that one major problem facing families is that high-sugar foods are often cheaper than healthier foods with a low-sugar content. "That's why we'd like to see the introduction of a 20% tax on drinks high in sugar," he says.

SOURCES:

Public Health England (PHE).

Change4Life.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

'Sugar tax gets backing of MPs', WebMD UK Health News, 30th November 2015.

'Halve sugar intake, say experts, WebMD UK Health News, 17th July 2015.

Reviewed on January 04, 2016

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