Is Sugar the New Tobacco: AIIMS Global Symposium to Discuss

Press Trust of India  |  Updated: October 17, 2016 15:03 IST

Is Sugar the New Tobacco: AIIMS Global Symposium to Discuss
  • 80-90 per cent of the adult population suffers from mild gingivitis
  • Consumption of aerated drinks and junk food, makes people addicted
  • The addiction could be similar to that of tobacco
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we should be eating fewer than 50 grams (equivalent to around 12 teaspoons) of ‘free’ or added sugar a day. Eating less added sugar – roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day – is even better for our health. To put that in context, 375mL of soft drink can contain around 10 teaspoons of sugar.

‘Free’ sugars include glucose, fructose and sucrose (table sugar) and other sugars that are added to foods and drinks by manufacturers, or that you add to food you eat at home.

They also include the sugars naturally found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. Eating too much added sugar can contribute to weight gain, increase the risk of becoming overweight or obese, and increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay.

The WHO guidelines do not refer to the sugars naturally present in fresh fruits and vegetables, and milk, because there are no adverse effects of consuming these foods.
Dental health scenario in India is "alarming" and excessive consumption of sugary drinks and junk food is making matters worse as high sugar eating habit is causing "addiction" and dental ailments, doctors have cautioned.

"About 80-90 per cent of the adult population in the country suffers from mild gingivitis (gum disease), 60 per cent from moderate gingivitis and over 50 per cent people overall have dental caries.

"Consumption of aerated drinks and junk food high on sugar, makes people unwittingly addicted to sugar, leading to craving for it, and eventually it wrecks their dental health.

The addiction could be similar to that of tobacco, and hence a matter of worry," Chief of Centre for Dental Education and Research (CDER) at the AIIMS, Dr O P Kharbanda, told PTI.

Seeking to demystify the evidence on sugar consumption reaching levels of addiction akin to tobacco, the AIIMS is organising an international symposium here on -- "Is Sugar the New Tobacco" -- on November 11.

"Two international experts on dental health and nutrition from the UK would be attending the event, besides some experts from the AIIMS. The symposium would also deliberate on the global best practices on control of sugar intake and suitable guidelines needed in India context," he said.

CDER also houses the WHO-Collaboration Centre on Oral Health Promotion, and Kharbanda, the head of the Division of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Deformities said, "Infants as young as 1-2 years old are getting dental caries."

"Many mothers leave milk bottles in their babies' mouths. And, this leads to deposition of sugar, mixed in the milk, in and around their teeth, leading to caries," said Kharbanda, who is also the chairman of the organising committee of the symposium.

On teeth-related ailments, he added that about 25 percent people suffer from malocclusion (imperfect positioning of the teeth when the jaws are closed), with the age group of 10-30 being the most susceptible.

Oncologists in India have identified chewable tobacco as a major health scare leading to head-and-neck cancer, and suggested increasing taxation on such products to deter its consumption.

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Taxing sugary drinks can lower consumption and reduce obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay, according to a new WHO report released recently.

"National dietary surveys indicate that drinks and foods high in free sugars can be a major source of unnecessary calories in people's diets, particularly in the case of children, adolescents and young adults," it says.

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