Today’s columnist. Dr Mary Wren: The dangers of hidden sugar

Fizzy drink

Fizzy drink

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I was listening to a fascinating radio interview with Jamie Oliver as I was driving home last week.

His latest challenge is to raise awareness of the damage caused by sugary drinks.

I was shocked to hear him say that some 330ml drinks have 13 teaspoons of sugar.

I couldn’t quite believe this so decided to check it out – and he is right!

Some research by Action on Sugar looked at the amount of sugar in popular fizzy drinks and found that 80 per cent have six or more teaspoons of sugar, with many having more than 10.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) set a guideline limit, in 2002, that sugar should make up less than 10 per cent of total energy intake per day, with a recommendation that countries should aim to get it down as low as 5 per cent. It is estimated that 5 per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to 25g of sugar per day, according to Action on Sugar. So two cans of fizzy drink would give us our daily recommended sugar.

Drinking lots of sugary drinks has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

In the UK it is estimated that 10 per cent of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes.

It is also estimated that 10 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by people with complications related to diabetes and a report entitled Diabetes in the NHS estimated a total cost of £3.5 billion per year, which is more than £9.6 million each day.

With more and more people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes it is scary to think of the implications for the NHS.

So what can we do? Firstly we need to take responsibility for our own health.

If we want our health service to survive and be there when we need it, we need to do what we can to help ourselves.

Jamie Oliver does well to highlight these things.

We can make simple diet changes that can make massive health differences.

Cut out those fizzy drinks, drink more water or milk, cut out some biscuits and cakes.

Then do more exercise – start walking, join an exercise class, find out what is available in your community.

NHS Choices has some really helpful advice under the “live well” section.

If we each do our bit we will benefit individually, but our city will benefit too, as resources are freed up for other things. Give it a go.