Alerting children to hidden sugar

For many years, fat has been recognised as the bogeyman in our diets. But recently sugar has been identified as the real culprit.

According to the latest figures, the average Briton consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar each week; often without even realising that are doing so.

In order to make local schoolchildren aware of the dangers of hidden sugar in what they eat and drink, a group of dental students at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have been working with pupils from St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Devonport.

The dental students began by running an awareness event for year five and six schoolchildren, at Devonport Library in Plymouth. They used pre-existing diet sheets to find out how much sugar the youngsters were consuming, but soon found that the exercise did not work as well as it should because the diet sheets were not engaging enough.

Once they had identified this shortfall, the students devised more creative, interactive ways of engaging with primary school children, which they then took into St. Joseph’s ­– at the same time incorporating ideas from the pupils themselves.

The student group is also working on an app to help youngsters log what they are eating and drinking, and which will also calculate the amount of sugar they are consuming.

As well as having a detrimental effect on the health of teeth and gums, increased sugar consumption is also having an impact on the rise in incidences of type 2 diabetes and associated illnesses.

Second-year dental student Sarah Benton, who is part of the group working with pupils at St. Joseph¹s, said: ‘There are also lots of incidences of hidden sugar, especially in manufactured items such as bread and ready meals. Our work is helping schoolchildren to be more aware of where the dangers lurk, and what the alternatives might be.’

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