Dubai, UAE: New Year resolutions can be hard to maintain but those with a sweet tooth are being challenged by Dubai Health Authority to go throughout January without refined sugar for a healthy start to 2017.
The idea has gathered support following a tweet by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, encouraging people to go for one month without sugar.
Doctors in Dubai have backed the challenge, with the DHA saying people should take part and show their support by adding the hashtag #30DaysWithoutSugar to social media posts.
Those taking the challenge are encouraged to replace refined sugar, found in sweets, fruit flavoured drinks and dips, among other products, with natural sugars found in fruits and dairy products.
Dr Wafa Ayesh, head of clinical nutrition at DHA, said some families are unaware of hidden sugars in everyday food.
“The public should choose foods with natural sugar instead of refined because the later has no nutritional value,” she said.
“Eating it in excess can cause diabetes, weight gain and heart problems.
“Natural sugars provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease.”
Refined sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, which are processed to extract the sugar, while natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose.
A DHA Twitter poll taken by 148 participants found 41 per cent were willing to take part, while 30 per cent declined and 29 per cent said they didn’t know if they would be taking on the challenge.
Parents are being encouraged to set an example to their children by helping reduce their sugar intake at an early age.
Rates of obesity and diabetes are rampant, with children consuming more sugar than ever at breakfast time from sugary cereals, fruit juice and preserves, meaning some are starting the day loaded with calories.
Dr Shaima Qayed, a senior DHA clinical dietician, agreed that processed foods add calories and sugar with little else in regards nutritional value.
“In contrast, fruit and unsweetened milk have vitamins and minerals,” she said.
“Milk also has protein and fruit has fibre, both of which keep you feeling full longer.
“Refined sugar is digested quickly, causing people to not to feel full after they are done eating, no matter how many calories they have consumed.
“However, the fibre in fruit slows down metabolism, as fruit in the gut expands, making people feel full.”
The American Heart Association advises women should consume no more than 100 calories worth of sugar — about six small spoonfuls — a day, while men can consume nine spoonfuls.
Oxford University experts predict a proposed UK tax on popular sugary drinks could help slow down spiralling obesity and diabetes rates in that country, as well as tooth decay following a study published in The Lancet medical journal.
It said changes in consumer behaviour and drinks manufacturers can be encouraged when extra duties are applied to fizzy drinks.
From April 2018 in the UK, drinks sold with at least 5g of sugar per 100ml will face extra taxes, with a higher rate for those with more than 8g per 100ml.
© The NationalJan 2017