Alarming new data on Australia’s sugar consumption provides good evidence for a tax on sugary drinks, health experts say.
The average amount of ‘added or free’ sugars consumed is 60g a day, equivalent to a whopping 14 level teaspoons of white sugar.
Teenage boys aged 14-18 have the biggest intake, averaging the equivalent of 22 teaspoons a day, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
The figures don’t include sugar naturally present in fruit or milk, only sugar added to foods and drinks as well as honey and the sugar naturally present in fruit juice.
Half of all Australians aged 2 and over are exceeding the World Health Organisation’s recommendations that sugar should make up less than 10 per cent of our daily kilojoule intake.
The findings of The Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Added Sugar, 2011-12 are as high as expected, dietician Dr Rosemary Stanton told AAP.
“But it is good to have actual figures as they give us good evidence as to why we should follow the other countries that are starting to have a tax on sugar sweetened drinks,” she said.
Alexandra Jones, from The George Institute, told AAP action was needed to deal with the “consistently alarming” findings on sugar consumption.
A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was a good start as it targeted a product with no nutritional benefit, which was aggressively marketed especially to youth.
“Diet is by far the biggest killer of Australians now, diet-related diseases, so this is really an opportunity for us to step up on that,” she said.
The groups most likely to exceed the WHO recommendation were children and young people aged 9-18 with close to three-quarters of them usually deriving 10 per cent or more of their energy from free sugars.
“The highest consumption of free sugars was among males aged 14-18 years who averaged 22 teaspoons per day, while the top 10 per cent of male teenagers have at least 38 teaspoons of free sugars per day,” said Louise Gates from the ABS.
Dr Stanton noted the “really dangerous group” was the young males, who obviously need more food as they were growing but were getting into bad sugar habits.
As well as introducing a sugar tax and child advertising restrictions, she said parents needed to make changes.
“They should go back to putting sandwiches and fruit in the lunchbox,” she said.
TOP SOURCES OF FREE SUGARS
Soft drinks, sports and energy drinks: 19pct
Fruit and vegetable juices: 13pct
Muffins, cakes, scones, confectionary: 8.7 pct
Confectionery and cereal/nut/fruit/seed bars: 8.7pct
Sugar product and dishes: 7.6pct
Tea and coffee: 7.3 pct
Sweet biscuits and frozen milk products: 4pct
PERCENTAGE OF AGE GROUPS EATING MORE SUGAR THAN HEALTHY
71+ : 45pct