Helen Martin: Food for thought in battle for our health

Substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar in fizzy drinks is not necessarily a good thing
Substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar in fizzy drinks is not necessarily a good thing
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STATISTICS claim that after a year of sugar tax, sales of sugary drinks should fall by almost ten per cent. Some people, including leading politicians and various branches of the food “police”, will see this as a great breakthrough in the fight against obesity.

Many others will not. Tesco has been heralded for reducing sugar in its own-brand drinks. However, the supermarket replaces sugar with sucralose, low in calories but than 600 times sweeter.

Jo Wood was 'bumped' from an easyJet flight. Picture: Getty

Jo Wood was 'bumped' from an easyJet flight. Picture: Getty

Sucralose and other artificial chemical sweeteners have been regarded as dangerous for some time. And now research, at home and abroad, has confirmed that sugar substitutes carry more risks than sugar.

A study earlier this year by Imperial College London showed that such chemicals can upset our metabolism and increase, rather than reduce, the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Other studies from the US show a direct link between the disease and the consumption of diet drinks. Even one can a day raises the risk by two-thirds. And 21 diet drinks a week double the risk of obesity.

The problem is these what these sweeteners (also including aspartame and saccharin) do, is mess up our gut bacteria, killing off the good and letting the bad multiply, one of the results being the inability to control blood sugar.

It’s already widely known that artificial sweeteners raise the appetite, another problem and one which is associated with the brain rather than the gut.

In fact, if we consider the food and drinks industry’s introduction of artificial sweeteners into products for their own reasons almost 20 years ago, long before sugar was recognised as the devil in our fridge, that forms a very coincidental link with the beginning of the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to health, we have to be aware that parliament, and even sometimes medical advisers, get food advice wrong.

For many years they blamed fast foods and saturated fats for what they perceived as national weight gain. They also blamed greedy and lazy members of the public for feasting on junk food and takeaways. Then, while not completely eating their words, they accepted they hadn’t quite got the whole picture and switched the Top Bad Boy title to sugar.

Once again the public were blamed for consuming swimming pools of sugary fizz. Funnily enough, most people who have type 2 diabetes and many who are overweight seem to be addicted to . . . diet drinks.

We do know for sure that sugar is a vicious destroyer of teeth, so consuming, especially drinking, lots of it is never to be recommended for anyone. Long before health advisory boards, governments, food manufacturers and misguided educationalists became involved in dictating what we should and should not eat and resorting to taxation to force the public to follow instructions, there were one or two tried and tested rules which worked for everyone.

Everything in moderation, and a little of what you fancy does you good – the key words being “moderation” and “little”. Having less to spend on food thus eating less and with no ready meals available to buy, it’s hardly surprising that previous generations were slimmer.

Health, weight and over-consumption depends on the individual. Taxation is not the answer. And nor is micro-management by government bodies who, we now know, don’t always get it right.

Airlines are sitting petty

WHEN is the law not the law? Clearly when it involves an airline.

Not long after United Airlines dragged a passenger off, assaulting him in the process, because they had overbooked seats, Jo Wood (ex of Stones’ Ronnie) and her boyfriend were “bumped” from an EasyJet flight from Murcia in Spain to Gatwick. Actually they were told one could board, and the other couldn’t, despite both having paid for tickets and booked their seats. Again it was the airline’s fault; they’d sold too many seats.

Now what would happen if we paid for a television in Curry’s or a tin of beans in Aldi, and made it to the shop door, only to have it snatched away and told that although we’d paid for it, another customer was taking it home?

Add the incomparable inconvenience and potential problems, not to mention the additional costs, of being chucked off a flight and airlines should be charged for mis-selling something that doesn’t exist (criminal fraud) and taking money under false pretences.

Surely the kids are all right?

ACCORDING to an American psychology professor’s report which has gone global, children are not able to safely cross a road until they are at least 14 years old due to their lack of judgement.

Well that’s going to increase the number of helicopter mums (or should that be 4x4 Yummy Mummies) at the school gates.

I was six when I began the two-mile walk to school and back alone every day. My son was about nine. Commute from Waverley around 7.30am and you’ll see Catholic school kids travelling daily to St Aloysius in Glasgow.

Considering our kids can vote at 16, or join the Army, we can only conclude American kids are retarded – or more probably, their psychology professors are not the full dollar.

May the force be with her

COULD the election be Theresa May’s Great Brexit Escape plan? She gets out of the hot seat, leaves the opposition to sort out the mess, and is free to criticise the outcome?