Rise in intake: In 1999, children obtained 11 per cent of their daily caloric intake from sugary drinks. By 2008, children were consuming more than 60 per cent of their total caloric intake from sugary drinks. *Photo supplied
Rise in intake: In 1999, children obtained 11 per cent of their daily caloric intake from sugary drinks. By 2008, children were consuming more than 60 per cent of their total caloric intake from sugary drinks. *Photo supplied

Debbie Jones is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.


 


The United States has recently reported that two out of three adults and one out of three children are overweight or obese. 

The rising consumption of sugary drinks is one of the main contributors to the obesity epidemic. 

One 20-ounce soda contains more than 15 teaspoons of sugar.

Before 1950, the standard size of a soft drink was 6.5 ounces. Gradually the bottles and cans have become bigger and bigger and in 2011 the 42 ounce bottle was introduced. 

In 1999, children obtained 11 per cent of their daily caloric intake from sugary drinks. By 2008, children were consuming more than 60 per cent of their total caloric intake from sugary drinks.

Studies have shown that people who drink sugary drinks every day have a 20 per cent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely have a sugary drink. 

One study that followed 40,000 men found that those who had on average one can of sugary beverage a day had a 20 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack than those who rarely had a sugary drink.

We have been talking about this problem for the past few years and the obesity rate soars — more and more people are being diagnosed with diabetes. What are we doing about it?

Mexico is taking a bold step and putting an eight percent tax on junk food as well as taxing soft drinks. In 2008, obesity cost the Mexican health system more than 42 billion pesos or 3.2 billion US dollars. By putting this tax on soft drinks, Mexico will raise over 12.5 billion pesos a year which will help support social security and unemployment insurance in the country.

Mexico joins a growing number of countries which are trying to prevent and reverse obesity through taxation in an effort to encourage Mexicans to choose no calorie drinks or water instead. Mexico’s president has said that his goal is to try and change behaviour and turn Mexico into a healthy country.

Credit Suisse has recently published a report titled Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads.

They surveyed general practitioners in the US, Europe and Asia and found that 90 per cent believe that excess sugar consumption is linked to the increase in obesity and diabetes worldwide. 

Credit Suisse further found that for many years it was believed fat and not sugar was to blame for the rise in obesity and diabetes. Fat calories were replaced with those from sugar. Today almost everything we eat from breakfast cereals to processed foods and of course sugary drinks contain added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women take in no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day and men no more than nine teaspoons. Credit Suisse found that the world daily average is an added 17 teaspoons of sugar a day! They found that most of the added sugar in the average diet comes from sugary soft drinks.

Credit Suisse believes that taxation is a viable option both for providing much needed revenue for ailing economies and to act as a deterrent for the consumer. Hopefully, consumers, conscious of their budget, will think twice before buying the more expensive sugary drink and choose water instead.

It is November — Diabetes Awareness Month. It is time for Bermuda to act and turn around the obesity epidemic, prevent type 2 diabetes and make our island a healthier place to live.

We are constantly being reminded about our economy and lack of financial resources. We can and should take the bold step that Mexico is taking. We must encourage drinking water, eating healthy whole foods and being more physically active. 

We could become a model for the rest of the world by making Bermuda a healthier place to live and raising the necessary funds to support our country in its time of need.