Monday, 7 January 2019

Inconvenient facts about the sugar panic

I had a piece in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday about childhood obesity and sugar. You can read it here if you're a subscriber.

In it, I mention five facts that go against the prevailing narrative that there is spiralling childhood obesity as a result of spiralling sugar consumption. For the record, my sources are as follows:

"We currently consume less than 35 kilograms per year. We are eating less sugar than we did in the late nineteenth century, let alone the late twentieth century."

Various sources, including Sidney Mintz's book Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, some of which are discussed here

"Since 1992, total sugar intake has fallen by 20 per cent, and added sugar intake has dropped by 28 per cent."

From the Family Food datasets (UK - household and eating out nutrient intakes (ODS, 92.2KB))

"This evidence is corroborated by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey which shows that 4 to 10-year-olds are consuming 29 per cent less sugar than they did twenty years ago and 11 to 18 year olds are consuming 18 per cent less. Sugar consumption among adults has fallen by ten per cent since the start of this century."

The figures from 2008/09 are available here. I have a saved copy of the figures from 1997 and 2000 but the website has been changed so I'm not sure if they're online anymore.

"The new 30 gram [daily sugar] target is ludicrously unrealistic (it is less than the sugar ration during the Second World War)"

The weekly sugar ration was eight ounces in both world wars. 8oz = 227g. 227g/7= 32g.

"In 2014, when the sugar tax was still a glint in George Osborne’s eye, sugar-sweetened soft drink sales had fallen by 46 per cent in the past decade."

Kantor data. Not available online for free.

"According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of 12-year-olds in England who exhibited clear signs of tooth decay fell from 81 per cent in 1983 to 28 per cent in 2013."

ONS figures are here.

"A study published in 2005 concluded that the dental health of children in Britain has ‘improved dramatically since the early 1970s’ and that ‘levels of dental decay in UK children at five and 12 years are among the lowest in the world.’"

This is the study.

"After rising in the 1990s, childhood obesity peaked at 19 per cent in 2004 and has since settled at around 16 per cent."

Health Survey for England 2017. Adult and child overweight and obesity tables.

"People are more likely to become obese as they get older and yet there are far more ‘obese’ 11 to 15-year olds than there are obese 16 to 24-year-olds. Why? Because we use a reasonably sensible benchmark for measuring adult obesity whereas we lower the threshold significantly when it comes to children."

I written about this here, here and here. Links to the studies by Cole et al. are in the articles.

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