Published on 12 April 2016

Researchers in Brighton have called for better education for people who may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if the new sugar tax on sweet drinks is to be a success.

The diabetes research team at the University of Brighton are looking at ways to help people understand the need to cut back to avoid obesity and related health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Researchers said the new sugary drinks tax will have only limited success unless people are persuaded to cut sugar intake – or they may simply switch to other sources.

Dr Claire Marriott from the University of Brighton wants people to understand why they should cut down on the amount of sugar in their diets

Dr Claire Marriott, Senior Lecturer in the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences, said the sugary drinks tax could help but warned: “It is very limited if we don’t help people to actually understand why they shouldn’t be eating too much sugar.

“Although by no means solely responsible, sugary drinks have been identified as being a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.”

The recently announced sugar tax on soft drinks could raise up to £530 million to be spent on primary school sports in England, with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland free to decide how to spend their share.

The tax could help improve the health of young people in the future by reducing their daily intake of sugar and prevent obesity and related health problems, like type 2 diabetes.

Dr Marriott added: “The effectiveness of a sugary drinks tax in other countries has been researched; while some studies suggest it has helped reduce overall weight, more recent data suggests sales (in Mexico) may not have been affected after all. It is worth noting though that with such high numbers of people being overweight, if it helps just a small per cent this is still very positive.

“But we consume sugar from a lot of different sources and a tax will only work to help people if they don’t replace that sugar with something else. Understanding the impact of sugar on weight-loss, metabolism and mood is key and that is what we need to focus on next.”

Researchers want to help people motivate themselves to eat healthier

Dr Marriott is leading the new research with Professor Adrian Bone, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, and Dr Wendy Macfarlane.

In collaboration with the Hastings branch of StreetGames, a national sports charity, the University of Brighton team have begun discussing health messages with young volunteers. The university’s Diabetes Research Group in Hastings has hosted a public health course to develop a tool which could be used by volunteers to discuss health messages with their peers.

Dr Claire Marriott, said: “We are now collecting real-time blood glucose (sugar) profiles from healthy volunteers in order to better understand glucose metabolism in response to different food types in different individuals. This project is also trialling different mobile applications as recording methods in order to optimise planning for a larger trial.”

Dr Marriott said that reducing the amount of sugar young people include in the diet was essential in the fight against the growing trend of early-onset type 2 diabetes.

She added: “While the benefits of healthy eating are undisputed there is a challenge in educating and motivating individuals to change.”

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