Sugar and The Sugar Tax

‘Sugar and spice and all things nice’, but is sugar really that nice? Apart from being the main food group at a child’s birthday party what other purpose does it play in our diets?

In 2018 new laws were bought into play by the UK government to overhaul our diets and drastically decrease our sugar intake.

What is Sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate, otherwise known as an energy-providing macronutrient. There are numerous types of different carbohydrates, sugars are known as simple carbohydrates. The ‘simple’ in its title refers to its chemical structure. It’s short and small and made on either 1 of only a few sugar units. This means it’s simple in structure and easy to break down into fast-release energy.

Examples of sugars include:

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose and many others

What Foods are high in sugar?

Sugar should only take up ~5% of the diet. This is ~100kcal, or 25-33g of sugar. This is approximately a standard can of cola (330ml). However, it’s thought that British Teenagers consume closer to 14% or 280kcal of sugar per day.

Foods high in sugar:

  • Confectionary and Chocolate
  • Cake
  • Biscuits
  • Fizzy Drinks, Smoothies and Juices`
  • Condiments or Prepackaged sauces Problems associated with sugar

Sugar isn’t demonised for no reason. For a complete and nutritious diet, there is no requirement for sugar. The optimal source of carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates, wholegrain bread, rice, pasta etc.

The problem with excess sugar include the following:

Diabetes T2DM and Diabetes 


Sugar is Cariogenic, this means that it stimulates cavity formation in teeth. Reducedenamel increases plaque build-up, the bacteria within plaque use sugar as a fuel source producing acid that causes rotting and small holes to destroy the tooth structure. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 8 children have tooth decay with an ever-increasing prevalence of tooth decay in milk teeth in children as young as 3 years old. The same NHS report stated that children who ate sweets every day were twice as likely to have tooth decay.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

This is also known as environmental diabetes. This is typically brought about by a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and excessive weight. Anyone with a BMI over 25 is at greater risk of type 2 diabetes. According to Diabetes UK Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) has risen from 1.4million people in the UK in 1996 to a gigantic 3.5million living with the disorder. Moreover, this is set to rise by another 5 million by 2025 if changes are not made. This is the form of diabetes where the body stops reacting to insulin in the correct manner. This means they typically have high blood glucose. This can be treated with diet and is completely reversible! When Type 2 diabetes is not controlled or managed then it can proceed to metabolic syndrome.


Obesity is caused by the carriage of excess weight stored as fat. Typically this occurs from eating too many calories or an excess of simple carbohydrates that are not burned as energy. If carbohydrates are not used for energy production they are stored to be used at a later date. Excess and unused carbohydrates are stored as fat. Typically this fat is stored around the abdomen and around the organs. This fat is called visceral or ectopic fat. This is the type of fat that is stored around the organs is particularly dangerous because fat is an active tissue capable of producing hormones. Furthermore, it can cause insulin resistance which can lead to metabolic syndrome and other diseases.

Metabolic syndrome is a complete disruption of the metabolic system and balance. Symptoms of this include:

  • Dyslipidemia- ​Disruption of fat and its carriers in the blood, causing high cholesterol
  • Hyperglycaemia- ​High Blood Glucose Levels
  • Insulin Resistance- ​Inability to respond correctly to Insulin
  • Type 2 Diabetes- ​Diabetes brought about by the environment
  • Hypertension- ​Clinical name for high blood pressure.
  • Increased risk of heart disease The sugar tax and what it means for you?

    The sugar tax was brought in by the UK government in April of 2018. How does this change your diet?

    This was brought in at a corporate level in which soft drink and fizzy drink companies are expected to reduce the sugar content of all their beverages in order to improve the nation’s waistlines and health. This means increasing the cost of any drinks containing more than 5g of

    carbohydrates from sugar. As a result, the extra taxed money will be used to support sport and exercise in schools across the nation.

    At this current time, Public Health England has predicted that the sugar tax will aim to include chocolate, sweets and another confectionary within this ruling by 2020.

    The aim of the sugar tax is a reduction in obesity across the board, but particularly in school-aged children. Its predictions state a reduction in obesity of at least 0.5 million people. Furthermore, it hopes that it will decrease rates of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cavities in all ages.

    Next time you reach for that slice of cake or chocolate bar just think. Sugar isn’t ‘all things nice’, respect your body and reap the rewards.


    Harriet Hunter, ANutr. Nutritionist