Published on 3 January 2019

Report finds that youngsters have eaten almost double their recommended sugar intake by the age of 10.

Many children in the UK have already exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their tenth birthday, according to recently published figures by Public Health England.

Based on their total sugar consumption from the age of two the report was published to coincide with the launch of a new Change4Life campaign, supporting families to cut back on sugar and to help tackle growing rates of childhood obesity and new diagnosis’ of type 2 diabetes – until recently unheard of in young people.

The report found while children’s sugar intakes have reduced slightly in recent years, they are still consuming around 8 excess sugar cubes each day, the equivalent to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes per year.

As recently reported, more than 6,500 people under the age of 25 in England and Wales are estimated to have type 2 diabetes.

To reduce sugar intake parents are being encouraged to ‘Make a swap when you next shop’.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Children are consuming too much sugar, but parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years.

“To make this easier for busy families, Change4Life is offering a straightforward solution – by making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.”

Healthier versions of the foods and drinks children enjoy could potentially half the sugar intake in a child’s diet and a list has been produced to help parents make simple everyday swaps.

Parents are recommended to try swapping:

  • a higher-sugar yoghurt (for example split-pot) for a lower sugar one, to halve their sugar intake from 6 cubes of sugar to 3
  • a sugary juice drink for a no-added sugar juice drink, to cut back from 2 cubes to half a cube
  • a higher-sugar breakfast cereal (such as a frosted or chocolate cereal) for a lower sugar cereal, to cut back from 3 cubes to half a cube per bowl
Cola bottles lined up in a row.

Many companies have recently reduced the amount of sugar in products such as yoghurts, breakfast cereals and juice drinks, meaning these swaps are a good place for families to start.

It is estimated that making the recommended low sugar food swaps every day could remove around 2,500 sugar cubes per year from a child’s diet.

In addition, swapping chocolate, puddings, sweets, cakes and pastries for healthier options such as malt loaf, sugar-free jellies, lower-sugar custards and rice puddings would reduce their intake even more.

According to recent figures severe obesity in 10 to 11-year-olds has now reached an all-time high, with more young people than ever are developing type 2 diabetes. Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of heart disease and some cancers. Excess sugar can also lead to painful tooth decay, bullying and low self-esteem in childhood.

Families are encouraged to look for the Change4Life ‘Good Choice’ badge in shops, download the free Food Scanner app or search Change4Life to help them find lower sugar options.

Many well-known food brands will now display the ‘Good Choice’ badge on products online, in-store and throughout their advertising, to help parents find healthier options.

Customers can also find healthier options in supporting supermarkets and convenience stores.

With a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, tackling obesity requires wider action and is not just limited to individual efforts from parents. Public Health England is working with the food industry to remove 20% of sugar from the products contributing the most to children’s sugar intakes by 2020.

In May 2018, PHE published a report recommending a 5% sugar reduction after a year - which showed an average 2% reduction in sugar across categories for retailers and manufacturers.

While breakfast cereals and yoghurts and fromage frais were among the categories meeting or exceeding the 5% ambition, some products in these categories are still high in sugar

Change4Life aims to make it easier for parents to find lower-sugar options.

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