Evidence based position statements on topical health issues
Expert scientific committees have noted that the balance of available evidence does not implicate sugar in any of the ‘lifestyle diseases’ obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, or cancer at any site. Sugar can be part of a healthy balanced diet.
Maintenance of energy balance is dependent both on energy intake and energy expenditure. If energy intake from food and drink exceeds the amount used for physical activity and bodily functions, the excess is stored as body fat, resulting in weight gain. The optimal combination to avoid positive energy balance and obesity is a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and regular physical activity.
Diabetes is caused by inadequate production, or lack, of the hormone insulin. Modern scientific research has shown that people with diabetes can include moderate amounts of sugar in their diet as part of mixed meals, and within the context of a healthy balanced diet.
Coronary heart disease
The body of scientific evidence available does not support the idea that sugar has any association with coronary heart disease. Current advice for prevention of coronary heart disease focuses on physical activity, limiting saturated fat and salt intake and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. There is no evidence that reducing sugar intake either reduces risk factors or alters cardiovascular risk.
Frequent intakes of foods or drinks containing carbohydrates such as sugars can cause tooth decay, especially in people who do not brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Scientific evidence suggests that frequency of sugar consumption should in fact be the key focus for dental caries, rather than amount. The only evidence based approach to the prevention of dental caries is the regular use of fluoride, especially in toothpaste.
The balance of available scientific evidence does not find a link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity or any other type of 'bad behaviour' or learning difficulties. ADHD is a complicated health condition and many combined causes have been identified including genetics, environmental toxins, brain function and parental actions.
The scientific evidence available to date concludes that sugar can be included as part of a normal, healthy balanced diet and, providing that energy needs are met, it is unlikely to adversely affect the nutrient quality of the diet or the variety of foods consumed.
There is a lack of evidence on the effect of food taxes on consumption, diet composition and health. Research is predominately from economic modelling of purchase data with co-consumption and substitution frequently excluded. The UK already applies taxation in the form of VAT (currently 20%), to a range of food and drink items. Therefore any fiscal measures proposed in the scientific research would be in addition to this levy. Modelling data and reviews indicate that any effects of plausible tax-rates are likely to be minimal and not effective in reducing disease risk. A small amount of data is available from countries who have introduced food taxes, but this has been unable to show a specific effect of taxes on consumption, purchase behaviours or on health. Research on the unintended consequences of a tax and the impact on lower socio-economic sectors of the population have not been sufficiently explored.
A review of all of the available scientific evidence shows that drinks containing sugars (whether fruit juices or soft drinks in general) contribute to an individual’s energy intake. However, there is conflicting evidence as to whether these types of drinks themselves lead to over-consumption, or contribute to obesity. Drinks containing sugars can be consumed within a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle.
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