Sugar: Not as Sweet as you Think

13th January 2016

According to Public Health England, children in this country are currently eating three times more than the recommended sugar limit.

Children aged four to ten years are consuming 22kg of added sugar per year – that’s 5,500 sugar cubes! In the UK as a whole, we eat over two million tonnes of sugar every year, but we’re not always aware that we’re having it. With many savoury foods such as wholemeal bread and low-fat yoghurt containing sugar, some of us could be having way more than we think.

Why is Too Much Sugar Bad For Us?

One of the most obvious reasons why too much sugar is bad for our health is that it tends to be high in calories but not all that filling. That makes it easy to over-consume and then the excess calories can cause you to gain weight. But it’s not just empty calories that are the problem.

Sugar supresses the immune system – when you get a big dose of it, you temporarily prevent your immune system’s ability to respond to challenges. The effect lasts for several hours, so if you eat sweets several times a day, your immune system will be perpetually operating at a disadvantage.

“If there’s one thing I’d strongly encourage parents to do, it’s to swap sugary drinks out of their kids’ diets for either a low-sugar drink or water or low-fat milk, which would be a really excellent choice.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England

Sugar also promotes inflammation. Eating foods high in sugar can fuel excessive, inappropriate inflammation that serves no useful purpose and actually promotes aging and disease. It also supresses the release of the human growth hormone – if you want to slow down the aging process, you definitely want to do more to avoid foods that are high in sugar.

Influxes of sugar into the system will also raise insulin levels. Over time, and if you eat too much, it takes more and more insulin to ensure your body cleanses itself of sugar from your blood and into your cells. Eventually your pancreas may just stop responding altogether. Hello diabetes.

And – of course – too much sugar is bad for our teeth and can lead to cavities and other tooth and gum related disorders.

FREE Sugar Smart App!

So, how much sugar SHOULD we be consuming? PHE recommend the below sugar limits each day:

  • Four to six year olds: five sugar cubes (or 19g)
  • Seven to ten year olds: six sugar cubes (24g)
  • Eleven year olds and above: seven sugar cubes (30g)

But with so many foods hiding sugar these days, how do we know how to keep track of how much we’re eating? Help is at hand. Parents in particular are being urged to sign up for a FREE app that tells them the sugar content of food and drink. The Sugar Smart app from Public Health England works by scanning barcodes on products and revealing total sugar in cubes or grams.


Officials hope the app will help to combat obesity, type two diabetes and tooth decay, especially in children. The app works on more than 75,000 products, offering a quick and easy way to help people assess potential purchases that may harm their children’s health.

To download the Sugar Smart app for free, go to App Store or Google Play and search for ‘Sugar Smart’.