Sugar intake a key contributor
This week marks national Sugar Awareness Week, which puts a focus on the importance of reducing the nation’s sugar intake and highlighting its effects on obesity.
While many people know that sugar is a major contributor to excess calories in the diet, which leads to weight gain and obesity, it is less known that Type 2 diabetes, which is becoming ever more widespread, is also linked to obesity, with 90% of cases occurring in overweight or obese people.
Around 2.5 million people in England have Type 2 Diabetes (not to be confused with Type 1 Diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease and cannot be prevented) and another 5 million are estimated to be at high risk of developing it. Diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems, including vision loss, kidney failure and stroke. If trends continue, almost a third of people will be obese by 2034 and 10% of these will develop Type 2 diabetes.
Some factors associated with Type 2 Diabetes – age, ethnicity and genetics – can’t be changed. However, the risk of developing the condition can be lowered significantly by losing excess weight and reducing waist size, being more physically active and eating a healthy balanced diet. So if obesity is one of the main risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes, it is understandable to look at diet when trying to prevent the condition.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has recently recommended that sugar should make up no more than 5% of daily calorie intake, which equates to 30g or 7 cubes of sugar per day. Currently, our main sources of sugar include sugar-sweetened drinks (carbonated drinks, juice drinks, energy drinks, squashes and cordials); cereal-based products (biscuits, cakes, pastries and sweetened breakfast cereals); table sugar and confectionery; and fruit juice, so cutting down on these items can help to reduce sugar intake and hence the number of calories consumed per day.
While some people can lose weight and improve their lifestyles alone, many need some help and support to reach their goals and ensure healthy lifestyle habits become permanent.
The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is due to start phased national roll out next year, will be offered to people already identified as being at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The programme aims to provide informative advice about nutrition and physical activity and help people make positive changes to their lifestyle to lose excess weight, reduce their waist size, be more active and adopt healthier diet, ultimately reducing their risk of Type 2 Diabetes. By referring people into these services when, the programme aims to reduce the number of people with Type 2 Diabetes and make us a healthier nation.