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It has been called ‘white poison’, which may be a little extreme – to some. Sugar in moderation is not necessarily damaging to your health, and it is a source of energy. However, it’s easy to consume far too much. Sugar is common not only in carbonated soft drinks, chocolates, cakes and sweets, but also in a wide variety of processed foods, including soups and breads. Most people eat far too much of the sweet stuff, and they are paying a heavy price. MS
Sugar is so highly addictive, devoid of nutrients and detrimental to the nation’s health, that it should be classified as a Class A drug, says a Cape Town nutrition therapist. Vanessa Ascencao was responding to a report that the Department of Health is considering a “sugar tax” to encourage South Africans to consume less of the sweet stuff.
Ascencao, a nutritional consultant to business and individuals, says science proves that sugar is taking a devastating toll on people’s health. It is so highly addictive that the language used to describe its effects, such as “sugar highs”, “sugar crashes” and “sugar cravings” mimic the descriptions of the effects of drugs, she says.
“We are facing a health pandemic as the recent Human Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council’s national health survey exposed,” Ascencao says.
“Diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease and depression are dramatically on the rise. Unhealthy lifestyles, including the high consumption of sugar laden and nutrient depleted foods, is at the core of this health crisis. It’s government’s obligation to take action.”
Taxation should be part of a broader plan, she says.
“Government should ensure healthy food, such as fruit and vegetables, is more affordable than nutrient-depleted food. This should be coupled with a national education drive on what to eat and the dangers of sugar and artificial sweeteners which are just as unhealthy and not a viable alternative.”
Ascencao says a sugar tax is not a panacea for the country’s poor state of health. However, it is an “educative tax”. It sends a powerful message which makes people aware, and a little more responsible for their health, she says. SAPA
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