Sugar tax welcome to help drive down obesity rates among children

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Paige Howitt

NATIONAL: Young woman with incurable condition which leaves her in constant pain forced to sleep next to a freezer

  • Health committee keen to bring in raft of measures to cut sugar intake
  • Ideas backed by Portsmouth’s director of public health
  • At least one in 10 of children in reception and Year 6 is classed as obese
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MEASURES such as a ‘sugar tax’ on food and drink would be welcome.

That’s the message from Dr Janet Maxwell, Portsmouth’s director of public health, who said it’s important people understand the impact of consuming too much sugar.

Janet Maxwell, the director of public health for Portsmouth

Janet Maxwell, the director of public health for Portsmouth

It comes as a House of Commons health committee, made up of MPs from different parties, said a tax on sugary drinks should be introduced as one measure to tackle child obesity.

The move, which has been backed by Public Health England, has not been favoured by the majority of MPs. Dr Maxwell said: ‘We welcome any measures that reduce sugar intake, which contributes to poor health such as obesity and tooth decay.

‘Reducing sugar intake, and having a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, is important for the health of both children and adults.

‘Many of us are eating too much sugar without even realising.

While Portsmouth is similar to the national average for obesity in children, the statistics remain a cause for concern, with approximately one-third of children overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school

Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health in Portsmouth

‘It’s well known sugar is in fizzy drinks and sweet snacks such as biscuits, cakes, and chocolate, but it is often hidden in foods we might not think of – like soups and sauces. The impact this has on our health is evident, especially when coupled with a lack of exercise.

‘Too much sugar can cause us to become overweight or obese, and can lead to Type 2 diabetes, dental decay, liver disease, and cardiovascular disease.’

The latest figures from the National Childhood Measurement Programme – which takes into account a child’s height versus their weight to come out with a body mass index – shows 10 per cent of reception-aged children in Portsmouth are classed as obese.

This rises to 19.1 per cent for children in Year 6.

In Fareham, 9.6 per cent of children in reception were classed as obese, which rises to 13.6 per cent in Year 6.

In Gosport, nine per cent of children aged four to five were called as obese, while 19.4 per cent of children aged 10 to 11 in Year 6 were measured as obese.

In Havant 8.7 per cent of reception children were measured as obese, which rises to 18.6 per cent in Year 6.

The figures relate to the 2014-15 school year.

Dr Maxwell added: ‘While Portsmouth is similar to the national average for obesity in children, the statistics remain a cause for concern, with approximately one-third of children overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

‘Data shows being overweight in childhood continues with age, so ensuring children have a healthy diet with low sugar intake from birth is important for both their short and long-term health.’

The committee is calling for a crackdown on price promotions of unhealthy foods, tougher control on marketing including the use of cartoon characters to promote unhealthy foods, an advertising ban on these foods before 9am and clearer labelling of products showing sugar content in teaspoons.