Taxing bad habits!

or

Avoiding bad habits and reducing other taxes for citizens?

Regardless of the main policy driver for this, we really need to introduce appropriate measures to regulate the food industry, starting with managing our inability to control our intake of sugar or whatever the food industry is currently using as a substitute.

No mention is made of the fact that when regulators or politicians say sugar they probably actually mean to say “There’s actually little or no sugar in a big gulp. Our modern sodas are sweetened with a mysterious substance called high-fructose corn syrup”.

One main benefit of this to producers was the very large price reduction over “natural sugar that had previously been used in their production especially as they did not consider that the consumer could and should expect to also benefit from this financial improvement.  Its not surprising that the soft drink industry did not promote this financial benefit with the same energy as they did with the threat of impending sugar taxes.  In fact some observers see parallels in their behaviour to the tobacco industry in their energy and craft to protect their financial bottom line.

In a recent article in the UK Independent, it can be seen that diabetes is and has spiralled out of control.   I paraphrase this article below and have edited this with information being prepared for our  website: http://mydiabet.es

The Independent article can be found here and was written by: Richard Hoffman, Lecturer in Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Hertfordshire

It is often said that the main aim of the UK’s new tax on sugary soft drinks is reducing obesity in children. Sugar not only causes child – and adult – obesity, sugar increases the risk of many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

Its not simply a case of people taking too much sugar which is just a part of this issue.

Overloading on sugar causes your body to react. Firstly it reacts to the rise in your blood sugar levels by  getting your  pancreas to produce insulin, so it can manage the extra glucose.

Too much sugar on a continuous basis will keep your blood glucose levels high and lead to more insulin being produced in your body. This continuous and increased level of presence of insulin  makes your bodies  cells change in ways that reduces the effect of insulin to a point where it works less effectively or not at all.  This leads to your  body overproducing insulin and giving you high and continuous levels of  blood glucose leading to in many cases the development of  many diseases, even if your body weight has remained at normal levels.

High glucose levels

High blood glucose is an established risk factor that will lead to type 2 diabetes. It also leads to the production of free radicals that damage blood vessels. Traditional mealtimes i.e. three meals a day allows time for antioxidants to repair damage between meals. Snacks of sugary foods can mean a consistent intake of sugars with no suitable gap in the process. This will result is increased risks for a heart attack.

Insulin acts as an agent that  promotes the growth of cells, raising the chances that normal cells will become cancerous. Higher insulin levels are linked to many cancers and could be an important risk factor for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. High glucose levels together with high insulin can  drive the onset of many diseases.

Prediabetes

This is a new medical term to describe the potential onset of diabetes. One report states that one in three adults in the UK has this condition – a figure that has tripled since 2003.

Most don’t even know they are in this pre-disease state and so take no remedial action. Being obese increases the risk of prediabetes, but a quarter of prediabetic people in the UK are of normal weight.

Each year, about one in 20 people with prediabetes cross the threshold into type 2 diabetes. And a recent review of a large number of studies also found that being prediabetic was associated with an increased risk, albeit small, for many different cancers. So detecting and treating this condition has huge implications for public health. In the UK, the NHS Health Check (a prevention programme for 40-74 year olds) will detect prediabetes, enabling patients to reverse it by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

But far better to prevent it occurring by adopting that healthy lifestyle now.

Cut down on sugary food and drinks will help prevent the dangerous cocktail of high blood glucose and insulin. Sugar added to processed foods is particularly harmful. But natural sources like fruit, though high in sugars, contain fibre, and fibre reduces glucose spikes in the blood by slowing the emptying of the stomach. It also gives a feeling of fullness, preventing over-consumption, whereas there is no such regulator in sugary drinks. Fruit also has the redeeming benefits of vitamins and other nutrients, while sugary drinks provide only empty calories devoid of nutrients. And studies show that fruit (but not fruit juice) is linked to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Another way to reduce spikes in blood glucose is by having sweet foods only after eating foods rich in fibre such as vegetables, beans or cereals. Some plant foods also contain natural chemicals that help further by blocking glucose uptake from the gut. Apples are a good example – and my research shows that onions also contain chemicals that can reduce spikes in blood glucose. This ability of various plant foods to reduce blood glucose may be one reason why the plant-based Mediterranean diet, even though it includes some sweet foods, is very effective at preventing and managing diabetes.

Makers of sugary soft drinks complain that their products are victimised by the new tax. Yes, many other sources of added sugar are also contributing to the epidemic of sugar-related diseases. But this is an opportunity for food manufacturers to do more to reformulate their sugary food products, not less.

, Lecturer in Nutritional Biochemistry, University of Hertfordshire

See Richard Hoffman’s original article here:

 

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