UAE among top consumers of sugar globally

The maximum amount of sugar men can eat per day is 150 calories, while women can consume up to 100 calories.

United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2018

The UAE is amongst the top consumers of sugar with an average person downing 213kg per year which is equivalent to 53,591 teaspoons annually or 147 teaspoons per person on an average, according to new data.

While the recommended daily allowance of sugar is 30 grams (five teaspoons) for people aged 11 and over, the UAE figures are nearly 30 times higher. According to American Heart Association, the maximum amount of sugar men can eat per day is 150 calories, while women can consume up to 100 calories.

The dataset was created by UK insurance provider Protectivity in May 2018 using 2017/18 human consumption data from the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Administration Database. Human sugar consumption data for countries that were not included in the USDA report were sourced with manual research using the latest data available.

In 2017, the UAE implemented a 'sin' tax on sugary drinks and cigarettes to lessen the unhealthy consumption. The prices of sugary carbonated drinks are now 50 per cent more whereas, the retail price of energy drinks has increased by 100 per cent.

According to statistics, the UAE has the fifth highest rate of fizzy drinks consumption in the world - higher than any other country outside the American continent.

Estimates show that a UAE resident consumes an average of 103 litres of soft drinks a year. An average adult consumes 3,000 calories per day.

With a high incidence of diabetes standing at 15.6 per cent for adults according to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), such high consumption of sugar is worrisome, said nutritionists.

Alaa Takidin, Clinical Nutritionist at Canadian Specialist Hospital said: 'Sugar is an important source of energy but a high intake of it may lead to various health issues such as tooth decay, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, hyper tension and heart diseases.'

'The impact of sugar on the body is more complex than just weight gain. Excessive amount of sugar can age the body on a cellular level and strain every part of the body which can have both short term and long-term effects on health,' she said.

In December, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) launched a campaign to highlight the health risks associated with drinking sugar-sweetened beverages that are consumed in large quantities because of their availability and marketing.

The campaign titled 'Your Health Comes First' under the slogan 'Beat the habit...Fight Extra Sugar' also aimed to raise awareness about the chronic diseases associated with consuming large amounts of sugar.

Nouf Khamis, deputy manager, health education and promotion department, explained that the topic of sweetened drinks was chosen as many drinks contain large amounts of sugar that exceeds the daily requirement of added sugar in the diet; this, in turn, affects daily caloric intake, and may result in weight gain and other related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

'We aim to correct misconceptions about sweetened beverages; for example, that they are free of added sugar, and clarify that sugar can be hidden in many beverages with different names.'

'In addition, we hope to reduce the consumption of sugar amongst individuals in order to adhere to the recommendations,' she said.

According to Alaa, once a person cuts down excessive sugar from their diet, the body starts to feel healthier. 'They eventually start feeling younger, happier and more energetic. Replacing sugar with proteins and nourishing foods helps in weight loss, boosts the immune system and lowers the risk of developing various health problems,' she said.

'Although, there is no hard and fast rule for daily intake, one must always opt for options with less sugar,' added Alaa.

Implementation of tax on sugary drinks tax is one of the key measures included in the UAE national NCD action plan (2017-2021).

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