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Sugar intolerance, systematic approach

District health boards are being encouraged to adopt policies that exemplify healthy eating habits and reduce the impacts of obesity.

At the September board meeting, Waikato District Health Board unanimously decided to adopt a new ‘Sugar Sweetened Beverage Policy”. The policy comes one year after the board also banned high-sugar snacks from their vending machines.

The new policy will follow a ‘traffic light’ system that rates drinks based on the quantity of sugar added to them.

“Waikato DHB will not sell any beverages that are sugar sweetened pre point of sale,” states the policy.

Seventy per cent of the organisation’s drinks for sale will contain no sugar or sweetener, while 30 per cent of drinks sold onsite will be naturally sweetened fruit juices up to 250 ml, small flavoured milk up to 250ml or diet soft drinks up to 450ml.

Waikato DHB’s medical officer of health Dr Anita Bell said this was an important part of the DHB leadership and will align with a healthy eating policy that aims to reduce the negative impacts of such drinks.

“The 70:30 green and amber rated drinks is an in-between… there’s always the possibility of changing the ratio as the New Zealand system gets more in tune with healthy eating.”

Last year Nelson Marlborough District Health Board principal dental officer, Dr Rob Beaglehole, published an article on the impact of sugar sweetened beverages and the connection between obesity, diabetes and oral health.

“The Youth 2007 study which surveyed youth from all ethnic groups, found that 49% of Pacific youth consumed 4 or more soft drinks per week compared with 39% of Maori, 25% Asian and 23% NZ European,” states the report.Sugar-2

It went on to explain the correlation of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and child obesity.

“SSBs are associated with the displacement of healthy beverages, poor nutrition and an increase in risk for obesity and diabetes. One observational study found that for each extra can or glass of SSB consumed per day, the likelihood of a child becoming obese increases by 60%…”

The policy comes after all district health board chief executives and chairs received a letter of expectation from the director general of health Chai Chuah, calling for similar policies to be in place by the end of 2015 across all DHBs.

“…The Minister of Health expects that all DHBs are strengthening existing approaches to help reduce the incidence of obesity. One important area where DHB leadership is being shown is in commitments made to limit sugar sweetened beverages,” the letter read.

The policy will be fully implemented by January 2016.

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