Will the sugar tax solve our health problems?
Will the sugar tax introduced on the 1st of May 2018 have any impact on the health of the nation or is it just another meaningless quick fix?
Many people with type 1 diabetes and their families are angry about the Irish and British sugar tax on Lucozade because this drink was recommended by Doctors as a quick and effective treatment for the inevitable low blood sugar events (Hypos) that insulin users have to be prepared for. http://theartisandiabetic.ie/hypoglycemia-hypo/
Why was this drink recommended? It was recommended because it was high in glucose, rather than sugar. Why is glucose recommended for treating hypos rather than sugar? Glucose is recommended because it is the quickest acting remedy for a hypo. It is the body’s preferred method of raising BG because it requires less digestion than sugar before it is delivered to the bloodstream. For anyone using the drink to treat hypos it will cost twice as much to bring their blood sugar back into a healthy range.
Fizzy drinks manufacturers quickly reacted to the news of the impending sugar tax by replacing sugar with artificial additives. I am not convinced that chemicals are safer than sugar or glucose. Once the sugar was removed and replaced with artificial sweeteners, the manufacturers had to mess around with other ingredients to give customers some resemblance to what they were used to. In the case of Lucozade, still called ‘Lucozade Original’, now proudly contains twice as much salt as before. It had 0.04g of salt per 100ml (0.15g per bottle). The lower sugar formula contains 0.08g of salt per 100 ml (0.304 g per bottle). How is this healthy? Salt is linked to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. Will people who consume a lot of this type of drink die younger, but thinner?
It’s a personal choice but I don’t believe that it is as effective to drink twice as much to get the same amount of glucose……….the more liquid the more diluted the glucose becomes. Half the glucose has been replaced with additives the sweeteners Aspartame and Acesulfame K.
I haven’t used fizzy drinks to treat hypos for years, but I have consumed hundreds of euros worth of Lucozade over the years. The manufacturers know that many of their customers were insulin users who used their product because it contained glucose but they had no consultation with us. The reduced sugar formula started to hit supermarket shelves in April 2017. The old formula was available in some shops until the beginning of this year, but was quickly sold out in larger supermarkets.
This caused much confusion and introduced a grave risk to us. Both high and low sugar Lucozade, both called ‘Lucozade Original’ were side by side on supermarket shelves with no indication on the front label to say which was which. Most people who have type 1 diabetes have a shelf or cupboard where they store suitable drinks or food for treating hypos and would have ended up with both formulas side by side. By its very nature low blood sugar causes confusion and affects cognitive process so introducing an additional risk to us was unethical.
Our obesity problem and increased occurrence of Type 2 diabetes are as a result of many things, not just the consumption of fizzy drinks. Fruit juice contains just as much sugar as sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks. We have given manufacturers free rain to add sugar, salt and whatever else they like into our everyday food. When they find cheaper substitutes for ingredients they add them in, update the back of pack label and we know nothing about it unless we read food labels all the time. If type 2 diabetes is as a result of diet (it isn’t always) I doubt there will be any reduction in its occurrence due to the sugar tax.
I think the government has missed a great opportunity by not consulting with people before they introduced the sugar tax which is just designed to collect tax and will have little benefit to our health. With some joined up thinking, we could have got something that really works like the project that Refill Ireland has started. They have introduced a campaign to reduce the amount of plastic drinking bottles we use, but instead of slapping a tax on each bottle they are introducing water points in towns and cities around the country. This will encourage people to refill their personal water bottles for free and drink more water. We reduce our plastic consumption, reduce landfill, reduce our carbon footprint and get people drinking the healthiest drink available.
With a little though a much better way of dealing with unhealthy eating and drinking habits could have been achieved. I hope I am wrong.