6 Aug 2017

NZers' sugar intake six times daily recommendation

2:26 pm on 6 August 2017

New Zealanders consume an average of 37 teaspoons of added sugar per day each, a leading scientist says, six times the recommended amount.

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Photo: 123rf

Professor Mike Berridge, a founding scientist at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, has written a new book with Victoria University's Associate Professor of Taxation, Lisa Marriott, called Sugar, Rum and Tobacco Taxes and Public Health in New Zealand.

Professor Mike Berridge told Sunday Morning New Zealand's sugar consumption was a staggering six times the World Health Organisation's recommendation of six teaspoons a day, and just three for children.

He said sugar has become so common place, it's virtually in every processed food.

"The amount of sugar in virtually everything we eat, including bread, crackers, biscuits, and it all adds up."

"Each one of those adds teaspoons of sugar, so it's not difficult to see that you're building up to way above World Health Organisation recommendations, which are nine, ideally six, teaspoons per day.

"If you sought out six teaspoons of sugar in what you're eating, you probably wouldn't finish breakfast before you'd hit the mark."

He said just 100ml of yogurt contained as much sugar as Coca-Cola.

Professor Berridge said a tax on sugary drinks could be the first step help curb people's behaviour.

Lisa Marriott said it was evident a tax would help, but it's not known yet how by much.

"The literature is very clear. A tax will change behaviour, but what you need to consider within that is the size of the tax, because in order to get a significant behavioural change you do have to have a significant tax, and those types of levels, 40 or 50 percent, are going to be politically unacceptable.

"And even at the lower end, 10 percent, you will still see some behavioural change, but there are a number of factors that will then also impact on the level of that change. For example you'll expect to see a much stronger behavioural change in people who are heavy users of sugar products, and a much lower change in people who are not."

But she said any change would help with people's long term health.

This week a UMR Research poll revealed more than two-thirds of us support a tax on sugary drinks.

The poll commissioned by the University of Auckland surveyed 750 people and 67 percent agreed a tax should be imposed and the proceeds go towards childhood obesity programmes.

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