Published on 20 July 2015

Parents are being urged to help their children lead a healthy diet by cutting down on the amount of sugary drinks in their daily diet.

Independent nutrition experts Public Health England (PHE) say too much sugar is currently consumed in this country causing major health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The call by Department of Health group PHE follows the recently published Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) sugar recommendations report, Why 5%, that included halving sugar consumption daily - from 10% to 5%.

The SACN recommended a significant cut to the amount of sugars people consume as part of their daily calorie intake and that consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is minimised and fibre increased.

Parents are being encouraged to help their children get into healthy eating habits from an early age

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE, said: “One-fifth of 10 to 11-year-olds are obese and almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese and sugary drinks are a major contributor. There is nothing good about a sugary drink, particularly if you are under the age of 11, and we must work together to find ways to wean ourselves from the sugar habit.

“The recommendation on sugars represents a huge challenge to the population, the government and industry, as both young people and adults already exceeded the previous recommendation. Given the serious health implications of being overweight or obese, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, PHE is urging parents to take action now, starting with sugary drinks.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said: “We’re asking parents to take a big step to establish a lifetime of healthy eating habits for their children by replacing sugary drinks with sugar free and no added sugar drinks, lower fat milks or water.

“Sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet, but account for almost a third of their daily sugar intake. Too much sugar leads to excess calorie intake, weight gain and obesity, itself leading to heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes in adults.

“But individual action is just part of the solution. We’re finalising a review of wider factors that influence how much sugar we consume, from marketing and promotions to reformulation and fiscal measures, so we can look at what we can all do to help the country lead healthier lives.”

The tops of assorted fizzy drink cans.

The findings in the SACN report include the first wide ranging look at the relationship between sugar consumption and health outcomes in the UK since the 1990s. The report found consuming sugary drinks was leading to unhealthy weight gain in children and young people.

For children, too much sugar is linked with a greater risk of tooth decay. In adults, it leads to them consuming too many calories.

Figures from the national diet and nutrition survey, referenced in the SACN report, found sugary drinks to be the highest contributor of sugars to the diet of children aged four to 10.

The study found that of sugars consumed: 30% came from soft drinks and fruit juice; 29% mainly from biscuits, cakes and breakfast cereals; 22% from sweets, chocolate, table sugar, jams and other sweet spreads; and 12% from yoghurts, fromage frais, ice-cream, and other dairy desserts.

While PHE has identified cutting sugary drinks as the first step parents can take, updated advice from its childhood obesity prevention campaign, Change4Life, also provides families with advice on how to cut down on other sugary foods. In addition, people are now being strongly advised to have only one 150 millilitre serving of fruit juice or smoothie per day, with a meal, as part of their five-a-day because of the high levels of sugar they contain.

When SACN published its draft report in June 2014, PHE embarked on a review of possible measures to reduce sugar consumption, including reformulation, marketing and promotions of high-sugar food and drink, and fiscal measures, looking at the impact they could have. The government asked PHE to use the evidence from this review to advise on actions it could take to lower sugar consumption, informing its wider obesity and diabetes strategy. PHE is finalising this evidence review and will publish it later this summer.

Read the SACN Why 5% report here
Sign up to the Change4Life 10 minute shake up and get a free information pack here
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