NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #rethinksugarydrink : A new campaign asking people to reduce their sugar intake highlights the link between obesity and 13 different types of cancer

 ” Obesity is now a leading preventable cause of cancer , but less than half of all Australians are aware of the link . A new campaign launched today by Cancer Council Victoria is aiming to change this.

In a ground-breaking new public awareness campaign, Cancer Council Victoria will expose the link between obesity and 13 types of cancer by depicting the toxic fat around internal organs.

As many as 98% of Australians are aware that obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but as little as 40% of Australians know about its link with cancer . ”

Being above a healthy weight is now a leading preventable cause of cancer. Our new campaign urges people to avoid to reduce their risk

You wouldn’t put this much sugar in a tea or coffee? But if you’re drinking one soft drink a day, over 20 years – that’s 73,000 teaspoons.”

Dr Gihan Jayaweera

A third of Victorians admit to drinking more than a litre of sugary drink each week 7, that’s more than 5.5kgs of sugar a year. We want people to realise that they could be drinking their way towards weight gain, obesity and toxic fat, increasing their risk of 13 types of cancer,”

Dr Ahmad Aly

 ” 69% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considered overweight (29%) or obese (40%); among children this is 30% (20% overweight, 10% obese) “

Read over 60 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Obesity articles

Or see Statistics part 2 Below 


Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper, acknowledged that the campaign’s portrayal of toxic fat could be confronting but said so was the fact that nearly two-thirds of Australians were overweight or obese 4.

“While talking about weight is a sensitive issue, we can’t shy away from the risk being above a healthy weight poses to our health.” Mr Harper said.

“With around 3,900 cancers in Australia each year linked to being above a healthy weight, it’s vital that we work hard to help people understand the link and encourage them to take steps to reduce their risk 5.”

Sugary drinks contribute the most added sugar to Australians’ diets 6, so Cancer Council Victoria is focusing on how these beverages can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which can increase the risk of certain cancers. The campaign will communicate that one way of reducing the risk is to cut sugary drinks from your diet.

The ad features Melbourne surgeon Dr Ahmad Aly exposing in graphic detail what sugary drinks could be doing to your health, as his laparoscopic camera delves inside a patient’s body to expose the dangerous toxic fat around internal organs.

Watch Video 

Dr Aly has seen first-hand the impact toxic fat has on people’s health and hopes the campaign will make people think again before reaching for sugary drinks.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said that while the campaign aims to get people thinking about their own habits, Cancer Council Victoria and partner organisations are also working to encourage governments, the food industry, and communities to make changes.

“It’s virtually impossible to escape the enormous amount of marketing for sugary drinks surrounding us on TV, social media and public transport. It’s also easier to get a sugary drink than it is to find a water fountain in many public places, and that’s got to change. We need to take sugary drinks out of schools, recreation and healthcare settings to make it easier for Victorians to make healthy choices.”

“The need for a healthy weight strategy in Victoria, as well as nationally, is overdue. In the same way tobacco reforms have saved lives, we now need to apply the same approach to improving diets”, Ms Martin said.

Case study: Fiona Humphreys

Since giving up the sweet stuff, Fiona Humphreys has more energy and has managed to shed the kilos and keep them off.

“I used to drink at least two sugary drinks every day as a pick me up, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I was addicted to the sugar rush and thought I needed them to get through my busy day.”

“After giving up sugary drinks I saw an immediate change in both my mood and my waistline. I lost 7 kilos just by making that one simple change and I haven’t looked back.”

“I decided to go cold turkey and switched to soda or mineral water with a slice of lime or lemon. I tricked my mind to enjoy the bubbles and put it into a beautiful glass. I feel healthier and my mind is clearer as a result.”

The campaign will run for five weeks and be shown on TV and radio and will feature across social media channels as well as outdoors across the state.

A dedicated campaign website will provide factsheets for health professionals and consumers and digital elements about how to make small lifestyle changes to improve people’s health.

Top tips to avoid sugary drinks 

  • Avoid going down the soft drink aisle at the supermarket and beware of the specials at the checkout and service stations.
  • If you’re eating out, don’t go with the default soft drink – see what other options there are, or just ask for water.
  • Carry a water bottle, so you don’t have to buy a drink if you’re thirsty.
  • Herbal teas, sparkling water, home-made smoothies or fruit infused water are simple alternatives that still taste great.
  • For inspiration and recipe ideas visit

How is sugar linked to weight gain

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate which provides energy to the body. However, eating too much sugar over time can lead to weight gain. Strong evidence shows that being above a healthy weight increases the risk of developing 13 different types of cancer and chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Let’s unpack what happens when our body receives more energy than it needs, how this can lead to weight gain and what you can do to decrease your risk of cancer.

Where do we find sugar?

In terms of health risks, we need to be concerned about ‘added sugar’. That is, sugar that has been added to food or drink.

Natural sugars in foods

  • Fruit and milk products
  • High in nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fibre or calcium.
  • We should eat these foods every day.

Sugar added to food

  • Processed foods
  • These foods are unhealthy and high in energy (kJ).
  • They don’t have other nutrients we need such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  • We should limit these foods.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities tend to have higher rates of obesity and sugary drink consumption and experience poorer health outcomes as a result.

We know that more than half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community drink sugary drinks almost every day.

The Overview also examined factors contributing to health, including nutrition and body weight. Some statistics of note include:

  • dietary risks contribute 9.7% to the total burden of disease for Aboriginal people
  • 69% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considered overweight (29%) or obese (40%); among children this is 30% (20% overweight, 10% obese)
  • 54% of Indigenous Australians meet the daily recommended serves of fruit; only 8% meet the daily recommended serves of vegetables
  • both measures are lower in remote communities compared with urban areas and intake is far more likely to be inadequate among the unemployed and those who did not finish school
  • on average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consume 41% of their daily energy in the form of discretionary foods — 8.8% as cereal-based products (cakes, biscuits & pastries) and 6.9% as non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks)
  • average daily sugar consumption is 111g — two-thirds (or the equivalent of 18tsp of white sugar) of which are free sugars from discretionary foods and beverages
  • 22% of Aboriginal people reported running out of food and being unable to afford more in the past 12 months; 7% said they had run out and gone hungry — both were more prevalent in remote areas

In the latest issue of JournalWatch, Dr Melissa Stoneham takes a look at obesity in Australia’s remote Indigenous communities and the struggle to eat well against the odds

Read in full at Croakey

Yorta Yorta woman Michelle Crilly gave up her sugary drink habit and hasn’t looked back. Watch her story.

Video: Rethink Sugary Drink - Michelle Crilly

Read more about the ‘Our Stories’ campaign and hear from more inspiring Victorian Aboriginal community members who have cut back on sugary drinks on our partner site Rethink Sugary Drink.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health @VACCHO_org @Apunipima join major 2018 health groups campaign @Live Lighter #RethinkSugaryDrink launching ad showing heavy health cost of cheap $1 frozen drinks


“A cheeky, graphic counter-campaign taking on cheap frozen drink promotions like $1 Slurpees and Frozen Cokes has hit Victorian bus and tram stops to urge Australians to rethink their sugary drink. 

Rather than tempt viewers with a frosty, frozen drink, the “Don’t Be Sucked In” campaign from LiveLighter and Rethink Sugary Drink, an alliance of 18 leading health agencies, shows a person sipping on a large cup of bulging toxic fat. “

NACCHO has published over 150 various articles about sugar , obesity etc

Craig Sinclair, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Public Health Committee, said while this graphic advertisement isn’t easy to look at, it clearly illustrates the risks of drinking too many sugary drinks.

“Frozen drinks in particular contain ridiculous amounts of added sugar – even more than a standard soft drink.”

“A mega $3 Slurpee contains more than 20 teaspoons of sugar.

That’s the same amount of sugar as nearly eight lemonade icy poles, and more than three times the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation of six teaspoons a dayi.”

“At this time of year it’s almost impossible to escape the enormous amount of advertising and promotions for frozen drink specials on TV, social media and public transport,” Mr Sinclair said.

“These cheap frozen drinks might seem refreshing on a hot day, but we want people to realise they could easily be sucking down an entire week’s worth of sugar in a single sitting.”

A large frozen drink from most outlets costs just $1 – a deal that major outlets like 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks and KFC promote heavily.

LiveLighter campaign manager and dietitian Alison McAleese said drinking a large Slurpee every day this summer could result in nearly 2kg of weight gain in a year if these extra kilojoules aren’t burnt

“This summer, Aussies could be slurping their way towards weight gain, obesity and toxic fat, increasing their risk of 13 types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and tooth decay,” Ms McAleese said.

“When nearly two thirds of Aussie adults and a third of kids are overweight or obese, it’s completely irresponsible for these companies to be actively promoting excessive consumption of drinks completely overloaded with sugar.

“And while this campaign focuses on the weight-related health risks, we can’t ignore the fact that sugary drinks are also a leading cause of tooth decay in Australia, with nearly half of children aged 2– 16 drinking soft drink every day.ii 

“We’re hoping once people realise just how unhealthy these frozen drinks are, they consider looking to other options to cool off.

“Water is ideal, but even one lemonade icy pole, with 2.7tsp of sugar, is a far better option than a Slurpee or Frozen Coke.”

Mr Sinclair said a health levy on sugary drinks is one of the policy tools needed to help address the growing impact of weight and diet-related health problems in Australia.

“Not only can a 20% health levy help deter people from these cheap and very unhealthy drinks, it will help recover some of the significant costs associated with obesity and the increasing burden this puts on our public health care system,” he said.

This advertising will hit bus and tram stops around Victoria this week and will run for two weeks. #



About LiveLighter: LiveLighter® is a public health education campaign encouraging Australian adults to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active.

In Victoria, the campaign is delivered by Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation Victoria. In Western Australia, LiveLighter is delivered by Heart Foundation WA and Cancer Council WA.

For more healthy tips, recipes and advice visit

About Rethink Sugary Drink: Rethink Sugary Drink is a partnership between the Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Australian Dental Association, Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists’ Association, Cancer Council Australia, Dental Health Services Victoria, Dental Hygienists Association of Australia, Diabetes Australia, Healthier Workplace WA, Kidney Health Australia, LiveLighter, The Mai Wiru Sugar Challenge Foundation, Nutrition Australia, Obesity Policy Coalition, Stroke Foundation, Parents’ Voice, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the YMCA to raise awareness of the amount of sugar in sugar-sweetened beverages and encourage Australians to reduce their consumption.

Visit for more information.

Aboriginal #Nutrition Health and #Sugar : @healthgovau Health Star Rating System review closes 17 August

 ” The Health Star Rating System has been marred by anomalies. Milo powder (44% sugar) increased its basic 1.5 Stars to 4.5 by assuming it will be added to skim milk. About one in every seven products bearing health stars goes against the Department of Health’s own recommendations.

Those of us working in public health question why obvious junk foods get any stars at all.”

See Sugar, sugar everywhere MJA insight article in full Part 3 below

  ” In 2012-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2 years and over consumed an average of 75 grams of free sugars per day (equivalent to 18 teaspoons of white sugar)1. Added sugars made up the majority of free sugar intakes with an average of 68 grams (or 16 teaspoons) consumed and an additional 7 grams of free sugars came from honey and fruit juice. “

ABS Report abs-indigenous-consumption-of-added-sugars 

See Part 1 below for Aboriginal sugar facts

The Health Star Rating (HSR) Advisory Committee (HSRAC), responsible for overseeing the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the HSR system is undertaking a five year review of the HSR system.

The five year review of the system is well underway, with a public submission process opening on 8 June 2017 on the Australian Department of Health’s online Consultation Hub.

Since the consultation period has been opened there has been strong interest in the system from stakeholders representing a diverse range of views.

To ensure that as much evidence as possible is captured, along with stakeholders’ views on the system, a further two week extension to the consultation period has been agreed and it will now close on 17 August 2017

See full survey details Part 2 Below

Part 1 Aboriginal sugar facts

ABS Report


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consume around 14 per cent of their total energy intake as free sugars, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that free sugars contribute less than 10 per cent of total energy intake.

Director of Health, Louise Gates, said the new ABS report showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are consuming an average of 18 teaspoons (or 75 grams) of free sugars per day (almost two cans of soft drink), four teaspoons more than non-Indigenous people (14 teaspoons or 60 grams).


    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people derived an average of 14% of their daily energy from free sugars, exceeding the WHO recommendation that children and adults should limit their intake of free sugars to less than 10% of dietary energy.
    • Free sugars made the greatest contribution to energy intakes among older children and young adults. For example, teenage boys aged 14-18 years derived 18 per cent of their dietary energy from free sugars as they consumed the equivalent of 25 teaspoons (106 grams) of free sugars per day. This amount is equivalent to more than two and a half cans of soft drink. Women aged 19-30 years consumed 21 teaspoons (87 grams) of free sugars, which contributed 17 per cent to their total energy intake.
    • The majority (87%) of free sugars were consumed from energy dense, nutrient-poor ‘discretionary’ foods and beverages. Two thirds (67%) of all free sugars consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people came from beverages, led by soft drinks, sports and energy drinks (28%), followed by fruit and vegetable juices and drinks (12%), cordials (9.5%), and sugars added to beverages such as tea and coffee (9.4%), alcoholic beverages (4.9%) and milk beverages (3.4%).
    • Intakes were higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in non-remote areas where the average consumption was 78 grams (18.5 teaspoons), around 3 teaspoons (12 grams) higher than people living in remote areas (65 grams or 15.5 teaspoons).
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed 15 grams (almost 4 teaspoons) more free sugars on average than non-Indigenous people. Beverages were the most common source of free sugars for both populations, however Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people derived a higher proportion of free sugars from beverages than non-Indigenous people (67% compared with 51%).

Part 2 @healthgovau Health Star Rating System review closes 17 August


The Health Star Rating (HSR) Advisory Committee (HSRAC), responsible for overseeing the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the HSR system, is undertaking a five year review of the HSR system. The HSR system is a front-of-pack labelling (FoPL) scheme intended to assist consumers in making healthier diet choices. The findings of the review will be provided to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum) in mid‑2019.

In parallel with this consultation on the HSR system five year review, the HSRAC is conducting a dedicated investigation of issues and concerns raised about the form of the food (‘as prepared’) rules in the Guide for Industry to the HSR Calculator. These enable additional nutrients to be taken into account when calculating star ratings based on foods prepared according to on-label directions. A specific consultation process seeking input into this investigation opened on 19 May 2017 and will close at 11.59 pm 30 June 2017. The form of the food (‘as prepared’) consultation can be viewed on the Australian Department of Health’s Consultation Hub.

The HSR system

The HSR system is a public health and consumer choice intervention designed to encourage people to make healthier dietary choices. The HSR system is a voluntary FoPL scheme that rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and assigns it a rating from ½ a star to 5 stars. It is not a system that defines what a ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ food is, but rather provides a quick, standardised way to compare similar packaged foods at retail level. The more stars, the healthier the choice. The HSR system is not a complete solution to assist consumers with choosing foods in line with dietary guidelines, but should be viewed as a way to assist consumers to make healthier packaged food choices.  Other sources of information, such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines, also assist consumers in their overall food purchasing decisions.

The HSR system aims to:

1. Enable direct comparison between individual foods that, within the overall diet, may contribute to the risk factors of various diet related chronic diseases;

2. Be readily understandable and meaningful across socio-economic groups, culturally and linguistically diverse groups and low literacy/low numeracy groups; and

3. Increase awareness of foods that, within the overall diet, may contribute positively or negatively to the risk factors of diet related chronic diseases.

The HSR system consists of the graphics, including the words ‘Health Star Rating’, the rules identified in the HSR system Style Guide, the algorithm and methodology for calculating the HSR identified in the Guide for Industry to the HSR Calculator, and the education and marketing associated with the HSR implementation.

The HSR system is a joint Australian, state and territory and New Zealand government initiative developed in collaboration with industry, public health and consumer groups. The system is funded by the Australian government, the New Zealand government and all Australian jurisdictions during the initial five year implementation period.

From June 2014, food manufacturers started to apply HSRs to the front of food product packaging. Further information on the HSR system is available on the HSR website. The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website also provides information on the HSR system in New Zealand.

Purpose and scope of the review
The five year review of the HSR system will consider if, and how well, the objectives of the HSR system have been met, and identify options for improvements to and ongoing implementation of the system (Terms of reference for the five year review).

With a focus on processed packaged foods, the objective of the HSR system is:

To provide convenient, relevant and readily understood nutrition information and /or guidance on food packs to assist consumers to make informed food purchases and healthier eating choices.

The HSRAC has agreed that the areas of communication, system enhancements, and monitoring and governance will be considered when identifying whether the objectives of the HSR system have been achieved.

Although HSRAC will need to be a part of the review process, a degree of independence is required and independent management and oversight of the review is an important factor to ensure credible and unbiased reporting. An independent consultant will be engaged to undertake the review. Specific detail about the scope of the review will be outlined in the statement of requirement for the independent consultant. A timeline for the five year review of the HSR system has been drafted and will be updated throughout the review.

Next steps in the review process

As part of the five year review, HSRAC is seeking evidence based submissions on the consultation questions provided in this discussion paper.

This consultation is open to the public, state and territory governments, relevant government agencies, industry and public health and consumer groups.

Making a submission

The HSRAC is seeking submissions on the merits of the HSR system, particularly in response to the consultation questions below. The aim of the questions is to assist respondents in providing relevant commentary. However, submissions are not limited to answering the questions provided.  Please provide evidence or examples to support comments. Some areas of this review are technical in nature therefore comments on technical issues should be based on scientific evidence and/or supported by research where appropriate. Where possible, please provide citations to published studies or other sources.

While the HSRAC will consider all submissions and proposals put forward, those that are not well supported by evidence are unlikely to be addressed as part of the five year review.

Enquiries specifically relating to this submission process can be made via email to: Please DO NOT provide submissions by email.

After the consultation period closes the HSRAC will consider the submissions received and will prepare a summary table of the issues raised which will be published on the HSR website. All information within the summary table will be de-identifiable and will not contain any confidential material.

HSRAC will treat information of a confidential nature as such. Please ensure that material supplied in confidence is clearly marked ‘IN CONFIDENCE’ and is provided in a separate attachment to non-confidential material. Information provided in the submissions will only be used for the purpose of the five year review of the HSR system and will not be used for any other purpose without explicit permission.

Please see the Terms of Use and Privacy pages at the bottom of this page for further information on maintaining the security of your data.

For further information about the HSR system, including its resources and governance structure, please refer to the Australian HSR website and the New Zealand MPI website.

Part 3 Sugar Sugar MJA Insights

Originally published Here

IT’S hard to escape sugar, not only in what we eat and drink, but also in the daily news and views that seep into so many corners of our lives.

There’s nothing new about concern over sugar. I can trace my own fights with the sugar industry back to the 1960s, and since their inception in 1981, the Australian Dietary Guidelines have advised limiting sugary foods and drinks. The current emphasis in many articles in newspapers, magazines, popular books and online blogs, however, go further and recommend eliminating every grain of the stuff from the daily diet.

Taking an academic approach to the topic, the George Institute for Global Health has published data based on the analysis of 34 135 packaged foods currently listed in their Australian FoodSwitch database. They found added sugar in 87% of discretionary food products (known as junk foods in common parlance) and also in 52% of packaged foods that can be described as basic or core foods.

The George Institute’s analysis is particularly pertinent to the Department of Health’s Health Star Rating System, and found that some of the anomalies in the scheme could be eliminated by penalising foods for their content of added sugars rather than using total sugars in the product, as is currently the case.

The definition of “added sugars” used in Australia also needs attention, a topic that has been stressed in the World Health Organization’s guidelines. I will return to this later.

In Australia, the nutrition information panel on the label of packaged foods must include the total sugars present. This includes sugars that have been added (known as extrinsic sugars) as well as any sugars present naturally in ingredients such as milk, fruit or vegetables (intrinsic sugars).

There is no medical evidence to suggest that intrinsic sugars are a problem – at least not if they occur in “intact” ingredients. If you consume fruit, for example, the natural dietary fibre and the bulk of the fruit will limit the amount of the fruit’s intrinsic sugars you consume. However, if the sugar is extracted from the structure of the fruit, it becomes easy to consume much larger quantities. Few people could munch their way through five apples, but if you extract their juice, the drink would let you take in all the sugar and kilojoules of five apples in less than a minute.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines do not include advice to restrict fruit itself because there is high level evidence of its health value. The guidelines do, however, recommend that dried fruit and fruit juice be restricted – the equivalent of four dried apricot halves or 125 mL juice consumed only occasionally.

Contrary to the belief of some bloggers, Australia’s dietary guidelines have never suggested replacing fat with sugar. That was a tactic of some food companies who marketed many “low” or “reduced” fat foods where the fat was replaced with sugars or some kind of refined starch.

The wording of Australia’s guideline on sugar has changed. The initial advice to “avoid too much sugar” led to the sugar industry’s multimillion dollar campaign “Sugar, a natural part of life”. This included distributing “educational” material to the general public, politicians, doctors, dentists, pharmacists and other health professionals discussing the importance of a “balanced diet”.

In spite of fierce lobbying by the sugar industry, the next revision of the guidelines retained a sugar guideline, although it was watered down to “eat only moderate amounts of sugars”. Some school canteen operators reported that they had been confronted by sweet-talking sellers of junk foods omitting the word “only” from this guideline.

The evidence for sugar’s adverse effects on dental health have long been known, but the evidence against sugar and its potential role in obesity and, consequently, in type 2 diabetes and other health problems has grown stronger. The most recent revision of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Dietary Guidelines, therefore, emphasises the need to “limit” added sugars and lists the foods that need particular attention.

Sugary drinks have been specifically targeted because the evidence against them is strong and extends beyond epidemiological studies. Double-blind trials now clearly link sugary drinks with weight gain, the only exceptions being a few trials funded by the food industry.

Added sugar is not the only topic for public health concern, and hence the government’s Health Star Rating System was set up to introduce a simple front-of-pack labelling scheme to assist Australians reduce their intake of saturated fat, salt and sugars from packaged foods.

A specially commissioned independent report (Evaluation of scientific evidence relating to Front of Pack Labelling by Dr Jimmy Chun Yu Louie and Professor Linda Tapsell of the School of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong) found that added sugars were the real problem, but the food industry argued that the scheme should include total sugars because this was already a mandatory inclusion on food labels and routine chemical analysis couldn’t determine the source of sugars.

This was a strange argument since food manufacturers know exactly how much sugar they add to any product, just as they know how many “offset” points the Health Star Rating System allows for the inclusion of fruit, vegetable, nuts or legumes. The content of these ingredients is only disclosed on the food label if used in the product’s name.

The Health Star Rating System has been marred by anomalies. Milo powder (44% sugar) increased its basic 1.5 Stars to 4.5 by assuming it will be added to skim milk. About one in every seven products bearing health stars goes against the Department of Health’s own recommendations.

Those of us working in public health question why obvious junk foods get any stars at all.

How can caramel topping or various types of confectionery, such as strawberry flavoured liquorice, each get 2.5 stars? Why do some chocolates sport 3.5 stars, while worthy products such as Greek yoghurt without any added sugars get 1.5 and a breakfast cereal with 27% sugar gets four stars?

The fact that over a third of Australian’s energy intake comes from discretionary products (40% for children) is the elephant in the room for excess weight. We need to reduce consumption of these products and allotting them health stars is not helping.

It’s clearly time to follow our dietary guidelines and limit both discretionary products and added sugar. Of the nutrients used in the current algorithm for health stars, the George Institute’s analysis shows that counting added rather than total sugars has the greatest individual capacity to discriminate between core and discretionary foods.

However, in moving to mandate added sugars on food labels and using added sugars in health stars, it’s vital to define these sugars. The World Health Organization has done so: “Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates”.

Regular sugar in Australia could be described as cane juice concentrate. It has no nutrients other than its carbohydrate. Fruit juice concentrates are also just sugars with no nutrients other than carbohydrates. At present the Health Star Rating System allows products using apple or pear juice concentrate to be counted as “fruit” and used to offset the total sugars. This is nonsense, and gives rise to confectionery, toppings and some breakfast cereals scoring stars they do not deserve.

Other ways to boost health stars also need attention. Food technologists boast they can manipulate foods to gain extra stars (Health Star Rating Stakeholders workshop, Sydney, 4 August 2016). For example, adding wheat, milk, soy or other protein powder, concentrated fruit purees or a laboratory-based source of fibre such as inulin will all give extra “offset” points to reduce adverse points from saturated fat, sugar or salt. Indeed, some food technologists have even suggested they could revert to using the especially nasty trans (but technically unsaturated) fatty acid from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to replace naturally occurring saturated fat.

My alternative is to go for fresh foods and minimise packaged foods. If the stars look too good to be true, check the ingredient list. But remember that Choice found sugar may go by more than 40 different names. Buyer beware!

NACCHO Aboriginal Diabetes Health #NDW2017 : Targeting sugary drinks in remote Indigenous communities

Part of our healthy food strategy is looking at reducing sugary drinks because consumption of sugary drinks across the whole population, but particularly in remote communities, is very high and high intake of sugary drinks has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor oral health and kidney disease.”

Outback Stores health and nutrition manager, Jen Savenake ( Interview Health Times )

Amata SA was an alcohol-free community, but some years earlier its population of just under 400 people had been consuming 40,000 litres of soft drink annually.

The thing that I say in community meetings all the time is that, the reason we’re doing this is so that the young children now do not end up going down the same track of diabetes, kidney failure, dialysis machines and early death, which is the track that many, many people out here are on now,”

Mai Wiru, meaning good health, and managed by long-time community consultant John Tregenza.

The Sugar Trip on Australian Story  View HERE

All previous NACCHO Diabetes 120 + articles over 5 years

Noting all graphics added by NACCHO

A nutrition strategy to reduce the portion size and availability of soft drink has reduced the consumption of sugary drinks in a remote Indigenous community.

Outback Stores, which provides retail services to more than 30 remote stores on behalf of Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, found its strategy decreased the sale of soft drinks by 10 per cent in six months.

Outback Stores health and nutrition manager, Jen Savenake, an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, says the store joined forces with one local community to trial the implementation of extra measures on top of its usual healthy food strategy.

Ms Savenake says the usual policy features measures such as stocking at least half of its fridges with water and diet drinks, with the remainder comprising sugary drinks.

“Our standard policy around sugary drinks includes things like – we always have the water fridges at the front of the store, where you have to go searching for the sugary drink at the back of the store,” she says.

“We have a special deal on water so that we get Mt Franklin water at $1 and the sugary drinks are 25 per cent more expensive than the diet drinks, and the diet drinks are more expensive than the water.

“We don’t promote sugary drinks ever, so we’ll do promotions on water and diet drinks but never promoting the sugary drinks, so you never see them on the end of the aisle and on discount.”

Download these Info graphics as PDF poster


Despite the existing measures, Ms Savenake says sugary drinks remain a “really big problem”.

“Part of our healthy food strategy is looking at reducing sugary drinks because consumption of sugary drinks across the whole population, but particularly in remote communities, is very high and high intake of sugary drinks has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor oral health and kidney disease.”

As part of the trial, the store stopped selling sugary drinks on school days between 8.30am and 2pm, and also reduced the soft drink portion size.

“We never stock bottles more than 1.25 litres so we haven’t got any 2 or 2.5 litre bottles but what we looked at was reducing the size of the bottle,” she says.

“So now we stock the biggest selling line in our 1 litre bottle rather than 1.25 (litre) so you get a 25 per cent reduction immediately for all of those.

“We also changed from stocking a 375ml can to a 250ml can and from a 600ml bottle to a 390ml bottle.”

Ms Savenake, who presented the preliminary results of the trial at the recent Dietitians Association of Australia’s (DAA) 34th National Conference, says the remote Indigenous community is now experiencing “some big changes” in the amount of sugary drinks being consumed.

Burunga NT in store promotion

“We still actually need some more time to see what the total results are going to be, but we’re getting at least a 10 per cent reduction in sugary drinks over the comparable period.”

Early indications also show an increase in sales of water, dietary drinks, fruit juices and milk drinks.

While different strategies may be needed in different communities, particularly communities with easy access to other stores, Ms Savenake says dietitians working at the food supply level can have an impact on consumption but they also need to work with all their stakeholders to ensure there is community support for these strategies.

“To do this project in the community, we had the support of the whole community…this is not Outback Stores imposing these conditions on the community, this is the community saying – what can we do to improve the health of our people,” she says.

“So we worked with them to develop that and that’s probably one of the most important things that we got out of it, that yes – we can implement the strategies at the food supply level but we need to make sure that people are on board.

“There is actually a case study where one community banned sugary drinks and what happened was they just set up a huge black market, so people would bring boot loads of the stuff and sell it for $10 a can out of the back of the car, and so it didn’t achieve the desired outcomes because people were just spending a whole lot of money on sugary drinks on their alternative supply route.”

Ms Savenake says Outback Stores will continue to examine the strategies in the community and may expand some of the measures, including smaller portion sizes, to more stores in a bid to assist communities to improve their health.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years but there’s almost like a tipping point where suddenly there’s a broader community awareness that we all need to get involved in doing something to improve our health and working towards healthier food,” she said.

“We’re still providing choice – you can still get it. It might be just a little bit harder to get, the shop is not open all the time so it’s still your choice around what you want to consume but we’re just providing a few incentives to mean that it’s a little bit more expensive, it’s a little bit less available, but if you really want it, it’s still there.”