WHEN it comes to sugar consumption, it appears that Australians are simply not getting the message.
New data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows we are consuming more added sugars in our diets than ever before, but the problem is worse in teenagers.
Download the report ABS Sugar Consumption April 2016
See previous NACCHO Sugar posts
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We now have specific dietary data available that pinpoints exactly where these sugars in our diet are coming from, and the news is not good for soft drink and fruit juice manufacturers.
The World Health Organisation recommends our sugar consumption should only make up five per cent of our total daily calorie intake, which equates to about 25g or six teaspoons per day.
The Australian Health Survey found that in 2011-2012, Australians were consuming an average of 60g of sugars each day, or the equivalent of 14 teaspoons of white sugar.
Not surprisingly, the majority of these sugars were coming from “extra” foods and drinks.
Soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, as well as fruit and vegetable juices make up 32 per cent of the added sugars in our diets. Almost nine per cent of the added sugars we consume are in confectionery, cakes and muffins.
Sugar intake was highest among teenage males, who consumed an average 92g or 18 teaspoons per day. That figure is particularly alarming, because as teenagers we develop food habits we’re likely to maintain throughout our adult lives.
Did you know?
- Sugary drinks, or sugar sweetened beverages, include all non-alcoholic water based beverages with added sugar such as non-diet soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and cordial.
- Sugar sweetened beverages are high in kilojoules, leading to weight gain and obesity.
- Obesity is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers (including endometrial, oesophageal, renal, gallbladder, bowel and postmenopausal breast cancers).
- Research has shown that consuming 340ml of sugary drink a day (which equates to less than one can) increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by 22% when compared to drinking one can a month or less.1
- American estimates show that consuming one can of soft drink per day could lead to a 6.75kg weight gain in one year (if these calories are added to a typical US diet and not offset by reduction in other energy sources)*.2
- Young Australians are very high consumers of sugar sweetened beverages, and sugar sweetened soft drinks in particular. The 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that 47% of children (2 to 16 years of age) consumed sugar sweetened beverages (including energy drinks) every day.3,4
- In the 12 months to October 2012, Australians bought 1.28 billion litres of carbonated/still drinks with sugar, with regular cola drinks being the most popular (447 million litres).5
- Many drinks contain acid that harms your teeth, including regular and diet soft drinks, sports/energy drinks and fruit juices. Acid weakens tooth enamel which can lead to tooth decay. Tooth decay is the most prevalent disease in Australia.6
- Sugar sweetened beverages produce more acid when the sugar combines with bacteria in the mouth. Try drinking water instead – it has no acid, no sugar, no kiljoules and if you get it from the tap it’s free.
What does 60g of sugar actually look like?
Sugars are found naturally in many foods including fruits, vegetables and dairy food. Glucose, the building block of all sugars, fuels the muscles and the brain. Natural sugars consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet are fine. The major issue in our diets are the extra sugars we get through processed foods and sugary drinks.
While 60g of sugar or 14 teaspoons may sound like an obscene amount of the white stuff, it really is not that difficult to consume this much added sugar on a regular basis.
For example, a smoothie contains 30g of sugar, a large fruit juice can contain up to 60g per 500mL and a fruit yoghurt has around 30g.
Now, if you consume soft drinks, processed cakes, muffins and confectionery, your sugar intake could be as high as 190g, or almost 20 teaspoons of added sugars every day.
So, what can I eat and still come in at the recommended 25g of sugar per day?
While your fruit and vegetable intake do not need to be included in this amount, once you include a little sugar from a breakfast cereal, fruit yoghurt and some dark chocolate you will have easily reached 25g.
That’s not taking into account any liquid sugars, sauces or foods eaten away from the home.
So how do I cut down on my sugar consumption?
If you are serious about cutting down on sugar, the first place to start is with your drinks.
Avoid fruit-based drinks and soft drinks altogether, and choose vegetable-based juices.
Don’t add sugar or honey to your tea and coffee. Only eat sweet treats a couple of times a week, and keep the portions small.
The most important thing is to check your food labels.
If sugar is listed as an ingredient, particularly on foods targeting children, avoid them altogether. You will be surprised how many snacks, yoghurts, sauces and pre-made foods contain added sugars, which are often listed as glucose, honey or rice malt syrup.
Parents of teenagers should keep an eye on their consumption of iced tea, soft drink and energy drinks. Once they get a taste for the white stuff, it is a tough habit to break.
Here are some healthy food swap suggestions:
- Fruit muesli – plain oats
- Fruit yoghurt – natural yoghurt
- Sugar – cinnamon, or vanilla
- Milk chocolate – 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate
- Dried fruit – fresh fruit
- Muesli bars – nut-based snack bars
- Rice crackers – roasted chickpeas
- Wraps – rye crackers
- Mayonnaise – avocado
- Sweet chilli sauce – chilli sauce