Brexit could combat the obesity crisis – by helping us slash our consumption of sugar, according to a new report.
Experts say people in Britain need to reduce their intake by at least two-thirds – and new laws are the key.
These would be aimed at us producing less of the white stuff and making it a dearer commodity, say food experts.
It could work by creating new laws to reduce how much farmers are paid to grow sugar and paying them to produce healthier foods instead.
Research by Public health England last year found sugar makes up 13.5 per cent of the calorie intake of four to 10-year-olds, and 14.1 per cent of teenagers’ (11 to 18-year-olds) – almost three times the recommended amount.
Did you know? The official dietary recommendation is sugar should account for no more than five per cent of daily calories – roughly seven teaspoons
A diet including too much sugar can lead to obesity and related health complications, including type 2 diabetes.
The official dietary recommendation is sugar should account for no more than five per cent of daily calories – roughly seven teaspoons.
Achieving this goal requires action on production as well as consumption, says the Centre of Food Policy report.
The briefing proposes concrete measures to reduce the availability and raise the price of sugar.
These would target the sugar-using industry rather than farmers or consumers.
Authors Professor Ben Richardson, an international political economist at Warwick University and Prof Jack Winkler, a nutritionist at London Metropolitan University says Brexit creates the opportunity to act – and Whitehall knows it.
‘Agricultural and trade policy are central to the supply of sugar,’ they say.
Health risk: A diet including too much sugar can lead to obesity and related health complications, including type 2 diabetes
HOW IT WOULD WORK
The white paper lists improving public health as one of its future goals – and reducing sugar production is the perfect test of its good intentions, said the professors.
This can be achieved by initially re-establishing the long-standing quotas on UK sugar beet production and the price paid for it.
Then, year-by-year, the quotas would be tightened and the wholesale price of sugar to large industrial buyers raised incrementally.
Large food manufacturers are the principal targets for these two policies – the 100+ companies that regularly buy 10,000 tonnes or more of sugar every year.
The professor said farmers need not suffer. The support payments beet growers currently receive could be used to help these same farmers grow healthier crops or develop local rural industries.
Consumers need not suffer either. In any product, sugar is a relatively cheap commodity. So the increased price would not even register on the weekly shopping bill.
The government would also benefit. It had success with its soft drinks levy.. But imposing levies on the whole range of popular sweet products might not be so acceptable.
Raising the price of sugar through agricultural policy would be a less visible, more politically acceptable route to follow.
More importantly, it would end the contradictions in current UK sugar policy. At present, DEFRA is trying to raise the production of sugar, while Public Health England is trying to reduce its consumption.
‘By leaving the EU the UK Government will have greater autonomy in these two policy areas, which have hitherto been subsumed within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Commercial Policy covering external trade, and Single Market legislation covering internal trade.
‘Numerous studies and reports have concluded that public health concerns around nutrition have not been sufficiently integrated into EU agricultural or trade policy, with negative repercussions for the spread of diet-related disease within the EU.
‘The CAP has been criticised for its promotion of the domestic dairy, red meat, sugar and alcohol industries to the detriment of fruit and vegetable production.’
The Common Commercial Policy has been criticised for discounting the health costs of lowering tariffs on ‘junk food’ imports.
Single Market legislation has been used to challenge decisions by Member States to apply minimum unit pricing on alcohol and ‘traffic light’ labelling on meat, on the basis that such measures restrict or distort competition within the EU.
‘Brexit creates an opportunity to address and avoid these problems, Winkler and Richardson added.
‘This was acknowledged explicitly in the consultation document launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) entitled Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit.
‘This stated that under the CAP ‘public health has been compromised’ and that ‘now we are leaving the EU we can design a more rational, and sensitive agriculture policy which promotes environmental enhancement, supports profitable food production and contributes to a healthier society.’
Professor Graham MacGregor, of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, welcomed the report.
Fattening: The Common Commercial Policy has been criticised for discounting the health costs of lowering tariffs on ‘junk food’ imports
He said: ‘One of the more startling findings from this study is the blatant discord between DEFRA’s policy and Public Health England’s campaign for sugar reduction.
‘It’s imperative that a joined up sugar policy with consistent strategies for the UK is in place. With a major new report this week showing that teenagers and children in the UK are among the unhealthiest in the Western world, the goverment must act now.
‘Sugar not only lacks any nutritional value, but it contributes to excess calorie intake which leads to weight gain, raising the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and some cancers.’
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW TO LOSE WEIGHT AND KEEP IT OFF?
Dr Campbell-Danesh, a behaviour change psychologist, based in Newcastle, has created his own method, called Focused Insight Training (F.I.T).
His system, which changes the way you think about food, applies scientific insights to three main pillars: mind, body and food.
Every F.I.T. programme is personally tailored to your unique psychology and lifestyle so that you can gain more control over your eating.
The first step is to shift your mindset to see that diets are not the answer.
In the long run going on another diet will hold you back from achieving the body that you want.
You’ll be one step ahead when you drop the illusion that a short-term fix can be a long-term solution.
You don’t brush your teeth intensely for seven days and then expect them to stay clean for the rest of your life.
Research shows being physically active plays an important role in keeping weight off.
Exercise naturally boosts your metabolism, counteracting the slowing of metabolism that occurs during weight loss.
The biggest mistake is to try and change too much too quickly.
The secret to long-term weight loss is to create small, gradual changes that become habits.
Small changes compound over time to lead to big results.
Studies into the psychology of habits show that the simpler the action, the quicker it becomes second nature.
Rather than counting calories or starting a diet you can’t sustain.
Research from Stanford shows that having an eating pattern that you can stick with, on which you don’t feel deprived, and that has more whole, natural foods and fewer refined, processed ones is most important for weight loss.
Switch your focus from restricting calories to nourishing your body with foods that you love to eat.