x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

We must act now to limit the harms of sugar consumption

The fact that one in three children are overweight in the UAE indicates the magnitude of the challenge

New research has found that children who consume lots of sugary drinks can have withdrawal symptoms akin to drug addiction. Chris Whiteoak / The National
New research has found that children who consume lots of sugary drinks can have withdrawal symptoms akin to drug addiction. Chris Whiteoak / The National

With great convenience come even greater costs. In recent decades, sugar has slowly crept into our diets, thanks to the availability and affordability of processed foods. Today it is the invisible ingredient in foods as innocuous as bread, cereal and yoghurt. And while health campaigns, legislation and new technologies have made some consumers more health-conscious, there is still much to be done.

As The National reported, children who consume high quantities of sugar can face withdrawal symptoms mirroring those experienced by drug addicts. So not only do fizzy drinks and sweets contribute to chronic diseases, from type two diabetes to cancer, they can create lifelong habits. That poses a significant threat to our children, not least in the UAE where obesity rates are double the global average. The fact that one in three children are either obese or overweight in this country is an indicator of the magnitude of the challenge facing government officials, schools and parents.

We should not play down the difficulties parents face in policing the sugar intake of their children. From school lunches and after school clubs to play dates and birthday parties, sugar is ubiquitous. But that is no reason not to try. And while sweets and soft drinks might be an easy way to pacify a screaming toddler, their profound lifelong consequences deserve attention. New parents should try to prevent sugar dependency from emerging in the first place. When it comes to those who are already accustomed to a sugary diet, reducing consumption little by little is the first step. So too is proper education in schools and homes.

Some pioneering schools, such as Deira International School in Dubai, have already banned caffeinated and sugary drinks. Not only can these products contribute to serious health problems, they also affect concentration levels and mood. Therefore, parents who care deeply about their children’s education should look equally closely at their diets.

The knowledge that children can suffer from withdrawal symptoms akin to drug addiction should put the next tantrum by the tills into perspective. A generation of youngsters are at risk of lifelong afflictions due to excessive sugar intake. The time for action is now.

Updated: December 9, 2018 04:22 PM

SHARE

SHARE