Let’s talk sugar

Sugar tax – yet another tax from April 1!  All sugary drinks now cost more because of the 11% health promotion levy introduced by the government to encourage the population to consume less sugar.  The reason? – To stem the rising tide of lifestyle diseases associated with being overweight.

Stats SA recently released the figures for causes of death in South Africa for 2016.  Diabetes was the second largest cause of death in South Africa and the number had increased from the year before.  Furthermore, 35% more women die from diabetes than those killed by accidents, crime and suicide combined.

Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common, is strongly associated with obesity.  Studies have shown that South Africa is the most obese nation in Sub-Saharan Africa and that two-thirds of South African women are either overweight or obese. Being overweight is also associated with an increase in heart diseases, high blood pressure and cancer.

“But from when I was a child they said sugar is energy, now they say it’s bad for you,” I overheard a customer complaining.  Yes, sugar is energy and it’s not all bad.  However, the problem comes in when you consume more sugar than required for your daily energy needs and the body stores the rest.  Also keep in mind that all starchy foods including bread, maize meal, rice and potatoes also provide the body with a large amount of sugar.  Sugar consumed in liquid form does not make you feel full and so you consume even more calories by eating food as well.  A study conducted in 2009 found that just one or two soft drinks per day can increase the risk of developing diabetes by more than 25%.

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of six teaspoons of sugar per day but just 500ml of a typical soft drink contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. Imagine putting that amount of sugar in your tea or coffee! South Africans, even those on a low budget, have developed a taste for sweet soft drinks and other high-calorie, low-nutrition foodstuffs – and the evidence can be found by just peeking into the shopping trolleys of the average consumer.

If you want to be healthier and lose weight start by cutting down on sugar-filled drinks and quench your thirst with water, tea or coffee.


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