Tag Archives: Sugar

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light, via implanted optical fibres, to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms in which researchers triggered the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room in which they triggered the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light, via implanted optical fibres, to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms in which researchers triggered the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room in which they triggered the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light, via implanted optical fibres, to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms in which researchers triggered the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room in which they triggered the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light, via implanted optical fibres, to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms in which researchers triggered the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room in which they triggered the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light, via implanted optical fibres, to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms in which researchers triggered the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room in which they triggered the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Desire for sugar eliminated in mice by rewiring brains

From whispering sweet nothings to hoping for sweet dreams, sugariness and pleasure have long been bound together. Now scientists studying the brains of mice have revealed why, unpicking the pathways in the brain which result in sweet foods being perceived as nice and bitter foods as nasty.

What’s more, they have managed to tinker with these routes so that mice get a kick out of a tasteless substance such as water, and have even managed to switch off such judgments completely. Researchers say the finding may help with the search for treatments for eating disorders.

“The very concept of sweet, the very word sweet, implies this goodness, this reward, this craving that we link to it, and similarly bitter on the other side has an immediate meaning to it. So we wanted to know, how does the brain encode meaning on sensory experience?” said Charles Zuker, lead author of the research from Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute.

While the work was carried out in mice, Zuker said there could be parallels for the human brain and that understanding the brain circuits involved in taste and our responses to it might eventually open up the possibility of tinkering with our own responses to certain foods – including sugar cravings.

The team has previously shown that chemicals behind sweet and bitter tastes are detected by different cells in the mouth and on the tongue of mice, and that the resulting signals then sent to different areas of a part of the brain known as the insular cortex, where the tastes are labelled as being sweet or bitter.

Now the team say they have discovered how the identity of a taste as sweet or bitter is linked to a mouse’s perception of whether it is nasty or nice.

Writing in the journal Nature, the team reveal how they used brain imaging techniques to reveal that the neurons from the insular cortex are connected to a number of different areas of the brain, including a part that processes emotions – the amygdala. Crucially, they found that where in the amygdala the signals are sent is different depending on whether the substance the mice consumed was sweet or bitter.

The researchers then genetically modified mice so neurons in their amygdala responded to light. That allowed them to use light to trigger the “sweet” or “bitter” regions of the amygdala when the mice entered different rooms of a test area, without the animals actually consuming anything.

The upshot was that the mice avoided rooms which researchers lit to trigger the bitter area of the amygdala, but hung around in the room where the light was designed to trigger the sweet area. That, the team says, showed the “sweet” areas of the amygdala generate a positive experience, and the “bitter” ones a negative experience.

The team also found that if the “sweet” area of the amygdala was triggered with light while the mice drank water – a neutral tasting substance – they guzzled the liquid, but turned their nose up at it if the “bitter” area of the amygdala was triggered.

Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice.


Mice and sugar: Neural projections from the sweet (green) and bitter (red) cortex terminate at distinct targets in the amygdala in the brains of mice. Photograph: Li Wang/Zuker Lab/Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute

What’s more, the team found that mice which had been genetically modified so their amygdala could be turned off using a drug no longer lapped up sweet substances or shunned bitter ones when the drug was given. “Silencing the amygdala abolishes the emotive, hedonic component associated with what you and I would call sweet or bitter,” said Zuker.

In addition, the team found that animals trained to go to a particular door in a test area depending on whether they were given a sweet or bitter substance were able to do so even when their amygdala was chemically turned off, meaning they could still tell the tastes apart.

While the tests were small, with as few as three mice used in some, the team say the fact the same results were found many times over indicate a strong finding.

Zuker said the results show the positive perception of sweetness is an innate association, probably down to an evolutionary drive for energy-rich foods, and that the identity of a taste and whether it is deemed nice or not involve two separate brain areas.

Food industry in England fails to meet sugar reduction target

The food industry has failed to hit its target of cutting sugar by 5% over the past year, with experts describing the results as “hugely disappointing” and suggesting the government may be forced to introduce a tax, as with sugary drinks.

Public Health England had called for a cut of 20% of sugar in the products we buy to take home and eat in cafes by 2020, with 5% in the first year. In a massive new report, PHE shows food manufacturers and supermarkets have cut out 2% over the first 12 months, but much more has been achieved in some areas and by some companies than others.

Only three food groups of the eight measured have managed at least a 5% reduction: sweet spreads and sauces, yoghurts and fromage frais, and breakfast cereals. There has been no sugar reduction in biscuits and chocolate bars, although we consume less because they have become smaller. Puddings, meanwhile, have actually become sweeter.

While PHE applauded the industry’s efforts, some critics slammed them as inadequate. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) described the results in the first year as “hugely disappointing” and said the government would soon have no choice but to ditch the voluntary approach for mandatory targets.

“At best, this is industry being slow to react. At worst – and in reality – it seriously calls into question industry’s engagement with the voluntary approach,” said Prof Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH.

The Obesity Health Alliance also spoke of disappointment and called for a revamped obesity plan. “We have seen the success of the soft drinks industry levy in turbo-charging reformulation in sugary soft drinks,” said its lead, Caroline Cerny. “We also know that stronger marketing restrictions, including a 9pm watershed on TV, would help protect children from relentless exposure to junk food, and encourage manufacturers to make their foods healthier. Now is the time for the government to protect our children’s health with a truly world-leading obesity plan.”

Chocolate confectionery has a very long way to go. A Terry’s Chocolate Orange contains 58.5g of sugar per 100g. A Cadbury Crunchie contains 65g per 100g. Of the top 20 brands, only Nestlé’s Kit Kat Chunky has decreased in sugar (now at 52.7g per 100g) – by reducing the portion size and calorie count – and Cadbury’s Double Decker has actually gone up.

Among ice creams, Wall’s Cornettos and Magnums contain a bit less sugar, but its Soleros contain more. Starbucks has reformulated its chocolate brownies and carrot cake with less sugar. Tesco and Waitrose are among the supermarkets to cut the sugar in their own-brand breakfast cereals and so has Jordans, although Dorset muesli still has 23.4g of sugar and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut contains 35.3g per 100g.

The puddings category, however, has failed to make progress. Ambrosia rice pudding, Mr Kipling sponge pudding and Nestlé Aero chilled mousse were all found to have increased in sugar content and/or calories.

Sugar

The detail of the report is designed to incentivise the food industry to do more and provide a baseline for measuring what it does over the coming years. PHE says next year’s report will give a clearer picture of the adequacy of the industry’s response.

Steve Brine, public health minister, hinted that the industry could be compelled to do more. “We lead the world in having the most stringent sugar reformulation targets and it is encouraging to see that some progress has been made in the first year,” he said.

“However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We are monitoring progress closely and have not ruled out taking further action.”

By contrast with the voluntary 5% sugar reduction in foods, the tough measure taken against sugary drinks in the form of the sugar tax is getting results. The PHE report said that sugar has been reduced by 11% in soft drinks and the average calories in single drink are down by 6%.

The data also shows that people are buying more drinks with less sugar – below the 5g per 100ml where the tax kicks in. That could be a result of publicity around high-sugar drinks or because of price.

Juice and milk-based drinks for children are now to be included in the PHE sugar-reduction programme, because they are not subject to the tax. PHE wants manufacturers and retailers to cut the sugar levels in juice-based drinks by 5% by 2021 and end sales of single drinks, including smoothies, larger than 150ml. Milk-based drinks should have 20% less sugar and no single drink should be larger than 300ml.

PHE’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said “tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action”.

A quarter of children who start primary school are overweight or obese – and that rises to a third by the time they leave for secondary school at 11.

“This is about tackling the nation’s obesity crisis,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “Too many children and adults suffer the effects of obesity, as does society, with our NHS under needless pressure. Obesity widens economic inequalities, affecting the poor the hardest.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said companies were engaging with what are sometimes difficult technical issues.

“As PHE correctly point out, reformulation takes time – it can’t happen overnight,” said Tim Rycroft, director of corporate affairs. “Sugar reduction has considerable technical challenges; sugar plays a variety of roles beyond sweetness in food including colour, texture and consistency. It is for these reasons that we have long said that the guidelines are ambitious and will not be met across all categories or in the timescale outlined.

“Obesity poses a huge public health challenge in the UK, and food and drink companies are well aware of their role in addressing this issue. For the last decade the UK’s food and drink companies have been reformulating their products to reduce sugar, calories, fat and salt, as well as limiting portion sizes. In fact, over the last five years FDF members have reduced calorie content in the average basket by 5.5%, and sugar content by 12.1% – and there is more work in the pipeline.”

He also called for cafes and restaurants to do more. “In many categories, the calorie content per portion of food served in cafes, coffee shops and restaurants is almost double that of manufacturers and retailers,” he said. “This is at a time when 25% of total calorie consumption takes place outside the home.”

Food industry in England fails to meet sugar reduction target

The sugar the nation consumes in its yoghurts and breakfast cereals has been cut by 5% in the last year – but there has been no sugar reduction in biscuits and chocolate bars, although we consume less because they have become smaller. Puddings, meanwhile, have actually become sweeter, Public Health England has revealed.

PHE’s progress check on the food industry’s efforts to cut the sugar in what we eat and drink to tackle child obesity shows a mixed picture. While PHE applauds the industry’s efforts, some critics slammed them as inadequate. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) described the results as “hugely disappointing” and said the government would soon have no choice but to ditch the voluntary approach for mandatory targets.

PHE has called for a cut of 20% of sugar in the products we buy to take home and eat in cafes by 2020, with 5% in the first year. The massive report PHE has now published shows food manufacturers and supermarkets have cut out 2% over the first 12 months, with much more achieved in some areas and by some companies than others.

Only three food groups of the eight measured have managed at least a 5% reduction: sweet spreads and sauces, yoghurts and fromage frais, and breakfast cereals. “At best, this is industry being slow to react. At worst – and in reality – it seriously calls into question industry’s engagement with the voluntary approach,” said Prof Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH.

The Obesity Health Alliance also spoke of disappointment and called for a revamped obesity plan. “We have seen the success of the soft drinks industry levy in turbo-charging reformulation in sugary soft drinks,” said its lead, Caroline Cerny. “We also know that stronger marketing restrictions, including a 9pm watershed on TV, would help protect children from relentless exposure to junk food, and encourage manufacturers to make their foods healthier. Now is the time for the government to protect our children’s health with a truly world-leading obesity plan.”

Chocolate confectionery has a very long way to go. A Terry’s Chocolate Orange contains 58.5g of sugar per 100g. A Cadbury Crunchie contains 65g per 100g. Of the top 20 brands, only Nestlé’s Kit Kat Chunky has decreased in sugar (now at 52.7g per 100g) – by reducing the portion size and calorie count – and Cadbury’s Double Decker has actually gone up.

Among ice creams, Wall’s Cornettos and Magnums contain a bit less sugar, but its Soleros contain more. Starbucks has reformulated its chocolate brownies and carrot cake with less sugar. Tesco and Waitrose are among the supermarkets to cut the sugar in their own-brand breakfast cereals and so has Jordans, although Dorset muesli still has 23.4g of sugar and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut contains 35.3g per 100g.

The puddings category, however, has failed to make progress. Ambrosia rice pudding, Mr Kipling sponge pudding and Nestlé Aero chilled mousse have all increased in sugar content and/or calories.

Sugar

The detail of the report is designed to incentivise the food industry to do more and provide a baseline for measuring what it does over the coming years. PHE says next year’s report will give a clearer picture of the adequacy of the industry’s response.

Steve Brine, public health minister, hinted that the industry could be compelled to do more. “We lead the world in having the most stringent sugar reformulation targets and it is encouraging to see that some progress has been made in the first year,” he said.

“However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We are monitoring progress closely and have not ruled out taking further action.”

PHE’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said “tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action”.

A quarter of children who start primary school are overweight or obese – and that rises to a third by the time they leave for secondary school at 11.

“This is about tackling the nation’s obesity crisis,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “Too many children and adults suffer the effects of obesity, as does society, with our NHS under needless pressure. Obesity widens economic inequalities, affecting the poor the hardest.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said companies were engaging with what are sometimes difficult technical issues.

“As PHE correctly point out, reformulation takes time – it can’t happen overnight,” said Tim Rycroft, director of corporate affairs. “Sugar reduction has considerable technical challenges; sugar plays a variety of roles beyond sweetness in food including colour, texture and consistency. It is for these reasons that we have long said that the guidelines are ambitious and will not be met across all categories or in the timescale outlined.

“Obesity poses a huge public health challenge in the UK, and food and drink companies are well aware of their role in addressing this issue. For the last decade the UK’s food and drink companies have been reformulating their products to reduce sugar, calories, fat and salt, as well as limiting portion sizes. In fact, over the last five years FDF members have reduced calorie content in the average basket by 5.5%, and sugar content by 12.1% – and there is more work in the pipeline.”

He also called for cafes and restaurants to do more. “In many categories, the calorie content per portion of food served in cafes, coffee shops and restaurants is almost double that of manufacturers and retailers,” he said. “This is at a time when 25% of total calorie consumption takes place outside the home.”

Food industry in England fails to meet sugar reduction target

The sugar the nation consumes in its yoghurts and breakfast cereals has been cut by 5% in the last year – but there has been no sugar reduction in biscuits and chocolate bars, although we consume less because they have got smaller. Puddings, meanwhile, have actually got sweeter, Public Health England has revealed.

PHE’s progress check on the food industry’s efforts to cut the sugar in what we eat and drink to tackle child obesity shows a mixed picture. While PHE applauds the industry’s efforts, some critics slammed them as inadequate. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) described the results as “hugely disappointing” and said the government would soon have no choice but to ditch the voluntary approach for mandatory targets.

PHE has called for a cut of 20% of sugar in the products we buy to take home and eat in cafes by 2020, with 5% in the first year. The massive report PHE has now published shows food manufacturers and supermarkets have cut out 2% over the first 12 months, with much more achieved in some areas and by some companies than others.

Only three food groups of the eight measured have managed at least a 5% reduction: sweet spreads and sauces, yoghurts and fromage frais, and breakfast cereals. “At best, this is industry being slow to react. At worst – and in reality – it seriously calls into question industry’s engagement with the voluntary approach,” said Prof Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH.

The Obesity Health Alliance also spoke of disappointment and called for a revamped obesity plan. “We have seen the success of the soft drinks industry levy in turbo-charging reformulation in sugary soft drinks,” said its lead, Caroline Cerny. “We also know that stronger marketing restrictions, including a 9pm watershed on TV, would help protect children from relentless exposure to junk food, and encourage manufacturers to make their foods healthier. Now is the time for the government to protect our children’s health with a truly world-leading obesity plan.”

Chocolate confectionery has a very long way to go. A Terry’s chocolate orange contains 58.5g of sugar per 100g. A Cadbury Crunchie contains 65g per 100g. Of the top 20 brands, only Nestlé’s Kit Kat Chunky has decreased in sugar (now at 52.7g per 100g) – by reducing the portion size and calorie count – and Cadbury’s Double Decker has actually gone up.

Among ice creams, Wall’s Cornettos and Magnums contain a bit less sugar, but its Soleros contain more. Starbucks has reformulated its chocolate brownies and carrot cake with less sugar. Tesco and Waitrose are among the supermarkets to cut the sugar in their own-brand breakfast cereals and so has Jordans, although Dorset muesli still has 23.4g of sugar and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut contains 35.3g per 100g.

The puddings category, however, has failed to make progress. Ambrosia rice pudding, Mr Kipling sponge pudding and Nestlé Aero chilled mousse have all increased in sugar content and/or calories.

Sugar

The detail of the report is designed to incentivise the food industry to do more and provide a baseline for measuring what it does over the coming years. PHE says next year’s report will give a clearer picture of the adequacy of the industry’s response.

Steve Brine, public health minister, hinted that the industry could be compelled to do more. “We lead the world in having the most stringent sugar reformulation targets and it is encouraging to see that some progress has been made in the first year,” he said.

“However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We are monitoring progress closely and have not ruled out taking further action.”

PHE’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, said “tackling the obesity crisis needs the whole food industry to step up, in particular those businesses that have as yet taken little or no action”.

A quarter of children who start primary school are overweight or obese – and that rises to a third by the time they leave for secondary school at 11.

“This is about tackling the nation’s obesity crisis,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “Too many children and adults suffer the effects of obesity, as does society, with our NHS under needless pressure. Obesity widens economic inequalities, affecting the poor the hardest.”

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said companies were engaging with what are sometimes difficult technical issues.

“As PHE correctly point out, reformulation takes time – it can’t happen overnight,” said Tim Rycroft, director of corporate affairs. “Sugar reduction has considerable technical challenges; sugar plays a variety of roles beyond sweetness in food including colour, texture and consistency. It is for these reasons that we have long said that the guidelines are ambitious and will not be met across all categories or in the timescale outlined.

“Obesity poses a huge public health challenge in the UK, and food and drink companies are well aware of their role in addressing this issue. For the last decade the UK’s food and drink companies have been reformulating their products to reduce sugar, calories, fat and salt, as well as limiting portion sizes. In fact, over the last five years FDF members have reduced calorie content in the average basket by 5.5%, and sugar content by 12.1% – and there is more work in the pipeline.”

He also called for cafes and restaurants to do more. “In many categories, the calorie content per portion of food served in cafes, coffee shops and restaurants is almost double that of manufacturers and retailers,” he said. “This is at a time when 25% of total calorie consumption takes place outside the home.”

Tax sugar, alcohol and tobacco to help the poor, say experts

So called “sin taxes” on sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco not only work, but will help rather than unduly penalise the poor, according to a major new international analysis.

Just a day before the UK brings in a levy on sugary drinks, experts are urging every country in the world to use taxes to deter people from the eating, drinking and smoking habits that will damage their health. They warn of the urgent need to check the spread of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other conditions caused or exacerbated by our lifestyles which have overtaken infectious diseases as the biggest killers of the modern age.

Five papers published in the Lancet medical journal say these non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are having a big and growing impact in low and middle-income countries, following in the footsteps of affluent nations. Those countries have 80% of resultant deaths. “There is a vicious cycle of NCDs leading to poverty and poverty leading to NCDs,” said Dr David Peters, professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, one of the authors. But the global scale of the problem has gone under the radar.

“Part of it is the spread of diet and lifestyles and part of it is because people weren’t looking at it before. If you don’t shine a light on it, you don’t see it as a problem,” he said.

NCDs cause 38m deaths a year and 16m of those are premature – in people under 70. The experts analysed the effects of taxes on sugary drinks, tobacco and alcohol in countries that have introduced them and found that the criticism that they are regressive – penalising the poorest – is unfounded.

In Mexico the introduction of a sugary drinks taxes cut consumption by an average of 4.2litres per person.


In Mexico the introduction of a sugary drinks taxes cut consumption by an average of 4.2litres per person. Photograph: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

They looked at 13 countries: Chile, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Albania, Poland, Turkey, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, India and Timor-Leste. They found that wealthier families generally spend more on alcohol, soft drinks and snacks. In India, for instance, wealthier households spent seven times more on alcohol and three times more on soft drinks and snacks compared to poorer households. So those households end up paying a larger proportion of any tax.

On the other hand, taxes have a greater impact on the smaller household budgets of poorer families. They respond by buying less, with greater benefits for their health. In the UK, say the authors, the response to the possible introduction of a minimum price for alcohol was estimated to be 7.6 times larger in the poorest households, compared with the wealthiest.

In Mexico, the introduction of a sugary drinks tax resulted in an average of 4.2 litres less of soft drinks purchased per person, with a 17% decrease in purchases among lower income groups and almost no change in higher income groups. In Lebanon, they say, a 50% increase in the price of cigarettes would lead to twice as many people quitting smoking in poorer households as affluent families.

“The evidence suggests that concerns about higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and soft drinks harming the poor are overstated,” said Dr Rachel Nugent from RTI International in Seattle, USA, and chair of the Lancet Taskforce on NCDs and economics.

“Some degree of taxation on tobacco is common in many countries, and while we are starting to see progress on alcohol taxes, there is much more governments should be doing – in both high and low income countries – to consider the careful introduction of taxes on other unhealthy products like soft drinks and snacks. Price policies such as taxes will be a key part of the response to rising rates of non-communicable diseases.”

The UK sugar tax is a levy on the manufacturers of 18p per litre for drinks containing 5g of sugar per 100ml and 24p on those with 8g per 100ml. Many companies have reformulated their products, often swapping artificial sweeteners for sugar. Some – like Coca-Cola – have decided to stick to the original recipe and the price will rise, although the bottles and cans will shrink to reduce the impact.