Why are Added Sugars Harmful?


12:31 PM

1 min read
Why are Added Sugars Harmful? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What the Report Says on Nestlé?
  • What are Added Sugars?
  • Why are Added Sugars Harmful?

Why in News?

  • According to a recent report, leading food and beverage brand Nestlé’s products for babies in Asia, Africa and Latin America were found to contain added sugars, while the same products sold in Europe did not have it.
  • Currently, Nestlé controls 20% of the baby-food market, valued at nearly $70 billion.

What the Report Says on Nestlé?

  • The product included the world’s biggest baby cereal brand Cerelac, which is meant for six-month-old babies.
    • Cerelac has no added sugars in Germany and the United Kingdom but contains nearly 3 grams per serving when sold in Indian markets and over 5 grams per serving in Ethiopia and 6 grams in Thailand.
  • Nestlé also did not make the quantity of sugar content clear on the products’ packaging.
  • The report (‘How Nestlé gets children hooked on sugar in lower-income countries’ by a Swiss organisation Public Eye) faulted Nestlé for employing different nutritional standards in its products, depending on the country it served.
  • Sugar is generally not recommended for infants, although guidelines in several developing countries do not explicitly prohibit it, posing health risks for children.
  • Nestlé's baby food products with added sugars are permitted under national legislation (of some countries) despite the fact that they go against World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.
    • In 2015, the WHO’s guideline recommended that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake.
    • It would be even healthier to consume less than 5% (roughly 25 grams per person a day) of free sugars.
  • According to a Nestlé India spokesperson, the company has reduced added sugars by up to 30% (in the last five years), depending on the variant, in their infant cereals portfolio (milk cereal based complementary food).

What are Added Sugars?

  • Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. Some food items have sugar that is naturally occurring.
    • For example, it is found in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) and any product that contains milk (such as yogurt, milk or cream) or fruit (fresh, dried) contains some natural sugars.
  • Free sugar or added sugar is added separately to a food item during preparation or processing.
  • It can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey, as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).
  • Low- and middle-income countries are increasingly being exposed to free sugars with growing incomes and the proliferation of giant global food brands that mass produce their products.
  • According to a UNICEF-supported study, of the 1,600 infant cereals, snacks and ready-to-eat meals marketed at young children in Southeast Asia, nearly half included added sugars and sweeteners.

Why are Added Sugars Harmful?

  • Sugar consumption is supposed to be kept limited for health reasons. Excessive consumption can lead to increased overall energy intake in a person’s overall diet.
  • It may be at the cost of food items having nutritionally adequate calories, eventually leading to an unhealthy diet.
  • The risks of contracting non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and heart-related ailments, are then increased.
  • Sugar should not be added to foods offered to babies and young children because it is unnecessary and highly addictive, starting a negative cycle that increases the risk of nutrition-based disorders in adult life.

Tooth decay is also associated with early exposure to sugar.

Q.1. What are the non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

Non Communicable Diseases are a diverse group of chronic diseases that are not communicable. They are defined as diseases of long duration; generally slow progression and they are the major cause of adult mortality and morbidity worldwide. Examples: diabetes, cancer, etc.

Q.2. How are standards for various food products decided in India?

The FSSAI approves a food product before they are introduced in the market. The FSSAI has set standards for various food products through the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act 2006; the FSS (Approval of non-specified food and food ingredients) Regulations 2017, etc.