Is big sugar the new health threat?

15 March 2017

University of Sydney researchers discuss the bittersweet truth in the debate about sugar. Is a tax on sugar the answer? Should we cut sugar from our diets completely?

Is sugar the new health threat?

Dr Kieron Rooney weighs in on the debate about sugar.

Sugar is currently making headlines around the world. But with so much information and conflicting advice - how do we know what to believe?

University of Sydney’s foremost researchers will discuss the bittersweet truths in the debate about sugar at a public forum from 6pm Wednesday 15 March.

“The majority of Australians are consuming above the recommended amount of added sugar every day,” said panelist Dr Kieron Rooney from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Excessive consumption of sugar is a major contributor to increasing rates of obesity around the world.  It’s also linked to increased rates of Type 2 diabetes and poor dental health.

“Considering that two thirds of Australian adults and one in four children are overweight or obese, it’s clear that we need to do something now,” he said.

There is new momentum to address these issues through a range of measures, but proposals for a sugar tax are dividing experts and the government.  

Dr Rooney said: “A sugar tax isn’t a silver bullet for solving these health issues, it is part of the solution, but not the only part.

“A tax would need to be considered along with reducing the availability and accessibility of added sugar products, and restrictions on advertising and marketing.”

Panelist Dr Becky Freeman from the University’s School of Public Health said that research findings can be biased and sneaky marketing tactics, particularly aimed at young people, are continuing.

“Media, especially media aimed at children and young people, is saturated with sugar. Our research on junk food promotions showed that sugary drinks are highly active on social media sites that appeal to young people.

“People are engaging with these brands as part of their online social circle. Sugary drink companies are positioning themselves as “friends” when in truth they are making us overweight, unhealthy, and rotting our teeth. It is time to unfriend these pushers of sweet nothings,” Dr Freeman said.

Dr Rooney added: “If there’s one piece of advice that individuals can take on to improve their current health and prospects for later life - reducing added sugar intake would be it.”

University of Sydney panelists:

  • Dr Kieron Rooney, Senior Lecturer, Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health Sciences and Charles Perkins Centre
  • Dr Becky Freeman, Senior Lecturer, Public Health, School of Public Health and Charles Perkins Centre
  • Professor Lisa Bero, Chair, Medicines Use and Health Outcomes, Faculty of Pharmacy and Charles Perkins Centre
  • Dr Carrie Tsai, Paediatric Dentist, Lecturer, Faculty of Dentistry

Event details:

When: Wednesday 15 March 2017, 6.00pm - 7.30pm

Where: The University of Sydney, Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, John Hopkins Drive

Cost: Free and open to all with registration requested.

RSVP: Register here

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