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The sugar tax and diabetes

Sugar tax has been in the news over recent weeks. What do you think of this proposal and the support it is gaining? Will it make any difference to our eating habits? What might we stop eating or reduce in our diets with such a tax?

What do you think of Jamie Oliver for flagging this up and is he right to do so? Did we feel the same when the ban on smoking in public places was introduced in 2007? Would we want to go back to that?

Let's face it, something has got to change. If you spend more than a little time working with people with diabetes, you will be aware this is a significant problem, and somehow we have to tackle this. Day after day we see patients whose biggest health problem is the fact they are obese, we try to cover it up and skirt around the subject, but why do we avoid it? Current figures tell us that one third of children are already overweight and two thirds of adults.

Maybe a tax is not the answer, but perhaps Tesco have the right idea in moving sweet products from the check out displays in supermarkets. Sainsbury's are apparently following suit in their larger stores, but should there be a bigger push towards this, just as cigarettes are no longer on display in these same type of stores?

Is it more about education and the need to go back to basics and teach the essentials about nutrition, what our bodies actually need and what foods we can get these nutrients from? What about portion size, people often visit health professionals and say that they have a healthy diet, but how big are the portions of the foods they consume?

These days when we buy cakes/cookies in restaurants or fast food outlets, they are much bigger than in the past; the same is often true in supermarkets as well. Do we need to recommend that food manufacturers reduce the portion size of products they make and we buy?

There are so many questions that could be asked, and maybe sugar tax is not the answer, but what other concrete ideas is the government coming up with instead? There needs to be some action, and if we are going to reduce the demand for bariatric surgery, then we need to work harder to reduce and prevent obesity.

 Maybe we don't need to cut out certain foods but rather ask these questions:

·      How much are we eating and how often?

Or perhaps we should try applying this acronym to food that is used in teaching DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed)to people with diabetes:

F: Frequency

A: Amount

T: Type

Perhaps these are simple messages that we could work harder at conveying to the general public as well as embracing for ourselves. “No food is prohibited”, is what Diabetes UK states, are they right or wrong?

What do you think? In my work as a diabetes specialist nurse, one of the many things I find myself doing much of my time is trying to explain the health implications of obesity, on type 2 diabetes. A vast proportion of those with type 2 diabetes could be prevented from having it.

Any suggestions, please?