52 teaspoons of sugar is way too much — Heart Foundation

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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IT is estimated that Jamaicans' daily intake of sugar amounts to over 52 teaspoons.

Deborah Chen, executive director of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ), made the revelation last week at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange while explaining that average the person will consume in excess of two litres of sweetened beverages each day.

She said: “From you get up in the morning till you go to bed how much liquid did you think you consumed? Roughly two litres. If every single time you had something to drink it was a sugar-sweetened beverage and it comes up to two litres, based on the average content of sugar sweetened beverages, you have taken in 52 teaspoons of sugar.”

Besides the startling revelation, Chen said notably, the American Heart Association guidelines used by the HFJ recommend that men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of sugar daily and women, six.

But, the flavoured waters, sodas and other sweetened beverages pack way more sugar than the recommended daily intake.

“If you look at the different brands of drinks, the sugar intake ranges from about nine in a flavoured water at the low end to about 24 teaspoons of sugar in another brand. The box juice which we love so much in Jamaica is another one. We are not only referring to sodas when we talk about sugar-sweetened beverages; we are also referring to so-called fruit juices where the only fruit is the picture on the label. Some of it is flavouring and some of it is concentrate. Every time your child drinks one you've gone 14 teaspoons of sugar in one drink,” Chen said.

“We need sugar each day, but only what's recommended. Imagine a child having one of those box juice at lunch time. They are already double what they should be having for the day. The smaller size have about five teaspoons of sugaring,” Chen pointed out.

“If you made lemonade in your home you would not put 52 teaspoons of sugar in it. If I said to you under the pain of death eat this 17 teaspoons of sugar, you could not do it, but because the drinks are liquid it easily goes down.”

The HFJ executive director further pointed out that the last time the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey was done, it revealed that the average Jamaican drinks one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day. She also pointed to the recently released 2017 Jamaica School Health Survey which shows that 68 per cent of children were drinking carbonated beverages one or more times per day.

Dr Tamu Davidson, who was also present at the forum, pointed out that data show once you are drinking more than one sweetened beverage per day, you increase your risk of Type II diabetes by 26 per cent.

Dr Suzanne Soares-Wynter, clinical nutritionist at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research, The University of the West Indies, Mona, said quantifying the amount of sugar people consume in teaspoons helps to drive home the message that we are drinking ourselves sick.

“You get natural sugars from fruits and vegetables. The problem is that there is just too much sugar in a lot of these things. When you show it in terms of teaspoons people can understand, as we don't eat in terms of calories and grammes,” she said.

The Heart Foundation, in observing Heart Month in February under the theme 'Healthy Nutrition, Know Your Labels', will embark on a number of public education initiatives aimed at influencing behaviour change among Jamaicans.

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