Parents who are worried about their children’s sugar consumption level may not be aware of the amounts of sugar contained in the foods their children are eating — but don’t worry, there’s an app for that. The BBC reports that the “Sugar Smart” app from Public Health England (PHE) allows parents to scan the barcodes of individual products to ascertain the sugar count in cubes or grams.
Health officials are hopeful that the app will fight tooth decay, obesity, and type 2 diabetes and will assist families in making healthier food choices. Currently, according to the PHE, kids in the UK are eating three times as much sugar as is recommended.
PHE has launched its Change4Life advertising campaign, which promotes the sugar app and warns that children from four- to ten-years-old, on average, are taking in 22kg of added sugar annually — about 50 pounds — which is more than the weight of an average 5-year-old child.
“If there’s one thing I’d strongly encourage parents to do, and that’s to swap sugary drinks out of their kids’ diets for either a low-sugar drink or water or low-fat milk, which would be a really excellent choice,” notes Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist from Public Health England.
She added that parents would probably be surprised at the amount of sugar in some foods they consider to be “healthy,” such as some yogurts and fruit drinks.
The PHE supports the idea of a “sugar tax” since it could assist people in cutting down on their sugar consumption. The department is also supportive of cutting back on the amount of advertising for sugary foods and drinks that is aimed at children in grocery stores, on television, and online.
According to Czarmecin of Latinos Health, the PHE’s campaign also includes a short film warning parents about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption. The Lincolnshire Echo wrote that 2.5 million people in the UK are suffering from Type 2 diabetes, and 90% of those are obese.
For children under the age of five, Tedstone advises no more than 19 grams of sugar per day.
The Telegraph’s Laura Donnelly writes that tooth decay has become the most common reason that five- to nine-year-olds are admitted to the hospital in the UK. Over the past three years, admissions have increased by 14%. In 2013-2014, according to official data, 25,812 kids aged five to nine were admitted to a hospital primarily because of dental issues. Almost half of eight-year-olds suffered from tooth decay.
The results of increased sugar consumption, including obesity, tooth decay, and type 2 diabetes can also affect a child’s sense of well-being, said Tedstone, which could lead to a greater likelihood of bullying, low self-esteem, and increased absences.
The Press Association reports that obesity costs the National Health Service £5.1 billion annually — and that figure is projected to come close to doubling by 2050. The British Retail Consortium, who are representatives of major UK supermarkets, have suggested the introduction of industry-wide targets aimed at reducing the amount of sugar in food and snack products.
Andrew Opie, a spokesman for the consortium, stated:
“To be effective, they need to apply to all food companies, which is why they need to be mandatory … It means we see change across the board and those companies that are more progressive in removing sugar are not penalised.