During major holidays, most of us usually tend to do two things: have a wonderful time with friends and family (something to look forward to) and potentially put on a few pounds due to the increased sugar in our diets (something to not look forward to). It seems, however, that the food we eat is getting sweeter as each year passes. In fact, this is exactly what a study done by Professor Barry M. Popkins from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Dr. Corinna Hawkes from City University London in the UK, seems to suggest. They have concluded that, overall, our diets contain more sugar than in the past.
Global nutritional data sets were analyzed, and patterns among the sales figures were deduced, revealing that the calories in packaged foods are indeed increasing. Overall, 68% of the packaged food and drinks in the US contain caloric sweeteners whereas only five percent contain solely low-calorie sweeteners. Seventy-four percent are made with both. These caloric sweeteners include sucrose (table sugar), honey, molasses, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose and fructose (fruit sugars), and more.
Image Source: Peter Dazeley
Popkins and Hawkes’ study also suggests that the trend of sweeter diets may spread to the rest of the world if an intervention is not staged. Government intervention might be more effective than merely relying on our own control regarding sweets. Some governments are leading by example and have put additional policies in place to fight against increasing sugar in our diets, whether it be by limiting the availability of certain sugary drinks and food or launching public awareness campaigns.
Mexico, Finland, and France, for example, have elected to put additional taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, and all of these countries have since seen a decline in sugar related consumption. In addition, the World Health Organization has also published a guide for children and adults alike for sugar intake. (For a quick guide and a list of the amount of sugar content in common foods, click here.)
These steps are certainly in the right direction, but more action needs to be taken, by not just the government, but ourselves. High sugar intake can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. It is up to us to take charge and control our sweet tooth, especially during the holidays.
Feature Image Source: Starbucks Christmas Special Edition by allenran 917