The average Australian is consuming more than double the recommended daily amount of sugar, largely due to ‘free sugars’ which are added to food and drinks by manufacturers.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends we limit our intake of free sugars to six teaspoons or 25 grams per day, yet the average daily consumption for Australians is 14 teaspoons or 60 grams of free sugars – 22 kilograms per year – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The highest sugar consumers in the ABS research were 14-18 year-old males who consumed an average of 22 teaspoons or 92 grams of free sugars daily. The top 10 per cent of this group consumed a whopping 38 teaspoons or 160 grams per day, more than six times the recommended average.
Naturally occurring sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in dairy do not contribute to the daily intake guidelines because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars, according to the WHO.
With a typical 600ml sports drink or 375ml soft drink containing 40 grams of free sugar, it is not hard to see why ustralian’s are exceeding recommended daily consumption averages.
A seemingly harmless drink immediately results in the consumption of 1.6 times the recommended daily added sugar intake. In America, sugary drinks have been identified as the largest source of free sugar consumption, accounting for 36 per cent of intake.
However sweet foods such as desserts and treats are also big culprits, as are many foods labelled ‘healthy’, with yoghurts, cereals, breads and sauces also often high in added sugar.
The health effects of sugar: drinks the worst
Excess sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, while emerging research is also linking high sugar intake with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease and premature aging.
Furthermore, consuming excessive sugar is even more dangerous in fluid form due to our bodies not having to break down the food to access it. Liquid sugar is quickly converted to blood sugar, delivering the body with a massive hit which overloads vital organs such as the pancreas and liver.
The heart is also affected. A 2012 study found that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 20 per cent. Importantly, the research concluded that artificially sweetened beverage intake was not associated coronary heart disease.
Are employers legally responsible?
With employers having a duty of care to provide a safe and healthy working environment, and with the serious negative health effects of a high sugar diet, the provision of these sugary drinks or foods to staff should be considered.
Construction site barbeques have been identified by Australian research as a widespread dietary concern, with the excessive consumption of sugary drinks, white bread and fatty foods.
That same research found that site managers have a significant influence over the diets of their staff, yet are reluctant to use that influence, despite their duty of care.