PARENTS are being encouraged to reduce the amount of sugar their children consume to help ward off heart disease and diabetes later in life. Levels of obesity among Asian children aged four to five, and 10 to 11 are significantly higher than the national average for children in reception and year six school years. A total of 23.8 per cent of Asian children in year six were classed as obese compared to just 17.6 per cent of white children in the 2013 to 2014 academic year, according to figures by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
The new Public Health England campaign Change4Life recommends four sugar swaps to choose from during the day, substituting snacks and drinks for alternatives. It follows research from Netmums, an online parenting forum which revealed that 67 per cent of mothers were worried about their children’s high levels of sugar intake. The changes include swapping sugary cereals for plain wholewheat types at breakfast time, consuming no added sugar drinks, and replacing ice cream with yoghurt for pudding.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Reducing sugar intake is important for the health of our children both now and in the future. We are all eating too much sugar and the impact this has on our health is evident. “This campaign is about taking small steps to address this. We know from past campaigns that making simple swaps works and makes a real difference. “This year we wanted to be even more single minded in our approach, which is why we are focusing on sugar alone. The family challenge highlights that simple swaps could lead to big changes if sustained over time.”
High sugar diets causes fat to build up inside the body, and can lead to heart disease, some cancers or type 2 diabetes. And children who are overweight or obese when they are young are far more likely to carry the body type into adulthood. Fifty families participated in the family sugar swap challenge with Public Health England, Netmums and the University of Reading, which found that they were consuming an average of 483g of the substance each day. By the end, this dropped to 287g per day when making sugar swaps, equivalent to 49 sugar cubes per family. Guidelines state that no more that 10 per cent of a person’s daily energy or calorie intake should be made up of sugar. However at present, children of all ethnicities aged between four and ten years old are consuming up to 50 per cent more than this.
Cathy Court, founder of Netmums, said: “We know that mums want to provide a
healthy diet for their children but balancing a number of competing priorities, including healthy eating, can be tricky. “This research with Netmums showed that sugar consumption is a worry for parents but taking steps to reduce sugar can be really difficult.”
Children aged from four to ten years old get 17 per cent of their daily sugar from soft drinks; 17 per cent from biscuits, buns, cakes, pastries and fruit pies; 14 per cent from confectionery; 13 per cent from fruit juice; and eight per cent from breakfast cereals.
For more information, go to www.nhs.uk/change4life