Obesity counterattack: sugar reduction campaign in quotes

Sugar reduction in foods presents some technical problems

Prominent nutritionists have provided their exclusive feedback on Action on Sugar’s sugar reduction campaign, designed to combat the rising incidence of obesity in the UK.

Here, we examine their reaction in quotes.

Pros and cons of sugar

Tristan Robinson, director at The Company Nutritionist

“Frequent consumption of sugary foods can have a negative effect on dental health. Addition of sugar to foods unnecessarily also increases their energy density and calorie content ... Sugar in itself may not be a concern for health, however the frequency of its consumption and the quantity at which it is currently consumed is.”

Spokesman for Sugar Nutrition

  • “The international authority, the World Health Organisation, funded a review on sugar and obesity published last year which concluded that any link to body weight was due to overconsumption of calories and was not specific to sugars.”

Gaynor Bussell, freelance nutritionist

  • “Sugar on its own has little micronutrient content but can help make otherwise less palatable nutritious food more palatable such as sour/sharp fruit.”

Campaign motivation

Dr Carrie Ruxton, freelance dietician

  • “I think it is being driven by anti-sugar pressure groups and health professionals who believe that sugar is inherently bad for health. I am not aware of pressure from sweetener companies and it would be unhelpful anyway as many of their customers also use sucrose!”

Manufacturers' responsibility

Nino Binns, consultant in nutrition and food regulation

  • “Manufacturers have the responsibility to provide safe food and to provide a choice and information - all of which they do. It is the individual’s responsibility to consume an appropriate diet (or a parent’s responsibility in the case of young children).”

Tristan Robinson

  • “Food manufacturers and retailers ... provide full nutrition information in a clear way in the Nutrition Information section of food labels ... The information is there, clearly presented and accounts for all sources of sugar, so manufacturers can’t be accused of ‘hiding’ the sugar away from sight.”

Dr Carrie Ruxton

  • “Manufacturers should offer choice to consumers by creating low or no sugar versions for those who want to buy them, and at the same or lower price. However, some consumers are against artificial sweeteners and prefer sugar. This shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Tackling sugar reduction

Tristan Robinson

  • “The work done by the food industry in reducing salt over the last 20 years has shown us that the most successful way of reducing a nutrient of concern in the diet without changing purchase behaviour is to reduce it gradually, allowing consumers’ tastes to adapt to small changes over a period of time.”

Nino Binns

  • “When it comes to foods where sugar provides structure  so cakes, biscuits, chocolate  then it is much more difficult because you need a technological solution to the structure functionality as well as sweetness. Sometimes polyols or other bulking agents can help, but product quality may suffer especially for baked products.”
  • “When it comes to dry foods there’s often not much point in reducing the sugar if you are replacing it with starch. For example, [Kellogg’s] Frosties have exactly the same calories per serving as Cornflakes (because both starch and sugar have 4KCal per gramme) so if you like a sweet breakfast you may as well opt for the Frosties.”

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