23 October 2015

We are pleased that the report by Public Health England, Sugar Reduction: The Evidence for Action, has been published, outlining possible ways to support the population in lowering its intake of free sugars. This report cites evidence that reducing price promotions on foods and drinks high in sugars, curbing advertising and marketing aimed at children, and reformulation strategies to reduce the sugar content, as well as portion sizes, of everyday foods and drinks are all likely to be effective in reducing the population's intake of free sugars. To a lesser degree, fiscal measures are also considered to be a useful option.

Following the publication of SACN's report on Carbohydrates and Health, it is clear that measures are needed to reduce the intake of sugars sweetened beverages and other major contributors to free sugars in our diets. People’s behaviour is influenced by a wide range of social, economic and physical circumstances, and policies that address these can help tip the balance from an 'obesogenic environment' towards one that makes it easier to make healthier choices. However, it is important to remember that obesity is a problem across the lifecourse and the underlying causes of energy imbalance and resulting weight gain are complex and multi-factorial. A wide and balanced range of measures are, therefore, required not only to tackle both prevention but also treatment. Simply focussing our efforts on sugars alone or on measures to reduce intake of specific foods amongst children will not be sufficient to tackle the obesity problem at a population level. An integrated package of activities to encourage more active lifestyles and better diets for all is required and a partnership approach is essential to make any major in roads in tackling this huge public health problem.