Today is World Obesity Day -- not exactly the sort of day we want to celebrate. Currently, one in four Australian children and nearly two in three adults are obese or overweight (35 percent overweight, 28 percent obese), and these rates have been increasing.
One of the major culprits driving this change is the amount of added sugar that we are consuming. The average Australian eats 14 teaspoons of added sugar per day, with teenagers eating more than 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. We are in the midst of a sugardemic.
A 600ml bottle of Coca Cola contains 16 teaspoons of sugar. Could you imagine sitting down and eating 16 teaspoons of sugar, and then washing it down with a couple of glasses of water? I can't. But for many people, that is effectively what they are doing.
Is this a problem? Well, the World Health Organisation thinks we should limit added sugar consumption to fewer than six teaspoons per day to improve our health.
And sugar is not just making us fat. All that added sugar is destroying our teeth, too. By the age of six, half of Aussie kids have decay in their baby teeth, and by the age of 12, half have decay in their adult teeth. Thousands of children as young as three years of age are hospitalised and having multiple teeth extracted because of the effects of sugar.
While it's easy to blame high-sugar soft drinks, cakes and lollies, and look for measures such as a sugar tax to address this, it is also important to acknowledge that we have a huge problem with hidden sugars.
Sugar is absolutely everywhere in our diets, and we are eating it without even realising it. Processed and packaged foods are full of hidden sugar, and that is contributing to our poor health. Sugar is often hidden on the label, given fancy (and sometimes healthy sounding) names such as sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, maltose, cane juice, dextrose or agave nectar. It's not always easy to know how much we are eating. Did you know that a breakfast of cereal and low-fat yoghurt could easily contain more than nine teaspoons of sugar?
So what can we do? A new campaign, SugarByHalf, is encouraging Australians to look at the food they are eating and see if there are simple and easy ways to reduce their sugar consumption. They want people to engage in a sugar swap -- swap out a sugary food for something healthy. Ditch the doughnut, grab a banana. Pass on the breakfast cereal and tuck into an omelette instead.
Australian cricket team doctor Professor Peter Brukner, co-founder of SugarByHalf, said: "Australians are currently confused about what they should and shouldn't be eating. We're consistently bombarded with a range of different diets and I realised the one thing that all of these diets have in common is the reduction of added sugar. It's the one thing we all need to reduce in our diet to address the epidemic rates of ill health we're experiencing in Australia."
So c'mon Australia, let's cut the sugar by half. What have you got to lose?