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5 year olds eat and drink their body weight in sugar every year

A new campaign launches today (4 January 2016) encouraging parents to get “Sugar Smart” and take control of their children’s sugar intake.

The Change4Life campaign follows revelations that 4-to-10 year olds consume over 5,500 sugar cubes a year, or around 22kg - the average weight of a 5-year-old.

A new Sugar Smart app has been launched to help parents see how much sugar there is in everyday food and drink. The free app works by scanning the barcode of products and revealing the amount of total sugar it contains in cubes and grams.

Change4Life has created an eye-opening short film to warn parents about the health harms of eating and drinking too much sugar, including becoming overweight and tooth decay.

In 2013, almost a third (31%) of 5-year-olds and almost half (46%) of 8-year-olds had tooth decay, the most common reason for 5-to 9-year-olds being admitted to hospital. The film brings to life the excessive amount of sugar consumed by the average child per year, currently 3 times the new maximum recommended daily amount.

The recommended daily maximum added sugar intake is:

  • 19g, that’s 5 sugar cubes for children aged 4 to 6
  • 24g, that’s 6 sugar cubes for children aged 7 to 10
  • 30g, that’s 7 sugar cubes children aged 11 or older

A fifth of 4-to-5-year-olds and a third of 10-to-11-year-olds are overweight or obese. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults making them more prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. There are now 2.5 million people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, 90% of whom are overweight or obese.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, said:

Children are having too much sugar, 3 times the maximum recommended amount. This can lead to painful tooth decay, weight gain and obesity, which can also affect children’s wellbeing as they are more likely to be bullied, have low self-esteem and miss school.

Children aged 5 shouldn’t have more than 19 grams of sugar per day. That’s 5 cubes, but it’s very easy to have more. That’s why we want parents to be “Sugar Smart”. Our easy to use app will help parents see exactly where the sugar in their children’s diet is coming from, so they can make informed choices about what to cut down on.

Obesity costs the NHS £5.1 billion per year and is projected to rise to £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year.

The campaign reveals the sugar content of everyday food and drink; a chocolate bar contains 6 cubes of sugar, a small carton or pouch of juice drink contains over 5 cubes and there are 9 sugar cubes in a can of cola, instantly taking children up to or over their recommended maximum for the day.

The Change4Life Sugar Smart campaign will launch with television, digital and outdoor advertising, and updated web content from today across England. Five million Sugar Smart packs will be given away to primary age children and their families via schools, local authorities and retailers. A nationwide roadshow will take place across 25 locations from 18th January. Five major supermarkets have also pledged to support the campaign through educating and helping customers make healthier food choices when shopping.

Search ‘Change4Life’ online to download the new free app and get hints and tips to cut down on sugar.

Change4Life will release further information throughout the campaign, including a Sugar Smart mini series featuring Jamelia and Amanda Ursell with lots of practical tips for parents on how to eat less sugar.

Background information

For further information about the Change4Life Sugar Smart campaign, please contact Out of hours: 0208 200 4400.

Singer and TV presenter Jamelia is supporting the campaign and starring in a series of Sugar Smart films from January, she says:

One of the trickiest challenges as a mum is trying to avoid sugar sneaking into my children’s diets. Supporting this new Change4Life campaign has opened my eyes to how much sugar is in the everyday food and drink we eat and drink. It’s so important to take control of the amount of sugar our kids are eating and act now.

I’d recommend all parents download the Sugar Smart app to uncover sugar that’s in their everyday food and drink to make healthier choices when food shopping.

  1. The Sugar Smart app allows people to scan the barcode of over 75,000 everyday food or drink products and see how many 4 gram sugar cubes it contains (total sugar). They can also share a ‘sugar reveal’ with their friends and family, and find hints and tips to cut down on sugar on the Change4Life website. The Sugar Smart app is available for free from the app store and google play.

  2. The following supermarkets and manufacturers have pledged their support to the campaign: Tesco, Aldi, Morrison’s, The Co-operative Food, Asda, Weetabix, New York Bagels, Flora.

  3. Average sugar (non milk extrinsic) consumption of children aged 4 to 10 per day is 60.7g. That’s 22,174g or 22kg of sugar per year. Based on 4g sugar cubes this is 5,543 cubes of sugar per year. The average weight of a 5 year old child in England in 2012 was 20.7kg.

  4. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Twitter: @PHE_uk,

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