Parents urged to take control of children’s sugar intake with launch of health campaign as the young consume three times the recommended maximum
UK – The average five-year-old consumes the equivalent of their body weight in sugar in the course of a year, health officials have warned.
Parents are being urged to take control of their children’s habits, as the government prepares to publish its strategy on child obesity, amid calls to introduce a tax on sugary drinks and foods.
The new campaign by Public Health England (PHE) warns that five-year-olds should only be consuming the equivalent of five sugar cubes a day.
On average, children are having three times their recommended maximum daily intake, which rises to six cubes for six- to ten-year-olds, and seven cubes for 11-year-olds.
Over the course of a year, a child aged between four and ten will consume around 5,500 sugar cubes – or three-and-a-half stone – the average weight of five-year-olds, PHE said.
Officials have launched a new free app, which reveals how much sugar is in everyday food and drink in a bid to encourage parents to take control of their families’ sugar consumption.
It works by scanning the barcode of products and showing the total sugar in each product in cubes and grams.
Tooth decay has become the most common reason that five-to-nine year olds are admitted to hospital, with a 14 per cent increase in admissions in three years.
In total, 25,812 children aged between five to nine-years old were admitted to the hospital with a primary diagnosis of dental caries in 2013/14, official figures show, with almost half of eight-year-olds suffering decay.
One in five children is overweight or obese by the age of five – rising to one in three by the age of 11.
Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Children are having too much sugar, three times the maximum recommended amount. This can lead to painful tooth decay, weight gain and obesity, which can also affect children’s wellbeing as they are more likely to be bullied, have low self-esteem and miss school.”
Obesity costs the NHS £5.1 billion per year, which is projected to rise to £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year.
There are now 2.5 million people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, 90 per cent of whom are overweight or obese. This month, the government is due to publish its strategy on childhood obesity.
Ministers are expected to unveil plans to clamp down on marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods, with restrictions on TV ads during “family viewing” times, and a crackdown on “two-for-one” deals on junk fare.
David Cameron has so far resisted calls for a “sugar tax” on drinks and foods, despite calls from PHE, celebrity campaigner Jamie Oliver and the Commons health select committee.
Health officials have previously urged families to cut back on fruit juice and smoothies, which are pushing up sugar intake in some families.
PHE have said that a single 150ml glass of fruit juice a day is the most anyone should drink.
Fruit juices and fizzy drinks are the largest source of sugar for children aged between four and 18, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey by Public Health England found.
Last year, government scientific advisors halved the recommended daily sugar limits, amid warnings about spiralling obesity rates.
The new advice says sugar should make up no more than 5 per cent of daily calories – which means about 30g of sugar a day for adults – less than the contents of one can of Coca Cola.
The targets for children mean those aged four to six should have no more than 19g sugar daily. – Laura Donnelly, The Telegraph