Public Health Liverpool launches campaign to tackle the ‘sugar epidemic’ among children

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Children in Liverpool could be having the equivalent of up to 20 cubes of sugar a day in cereals, drinks and snacks – leading to 1,000 youngsters having teeth removed every year.

In addition, 43.5 per cent of five-year-olds have decayed, missing or filled teeth and tooth extraction is the most common hospital procedure in five to nine-year-olds at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Statistics also show that 45 per cent of 11 year-olds are overweight or obese.

The shock statistics have prompted Liverpool’s Public Health team to help parents see how much sugar their child is having every day, and give tips and advice on reducing it.

The Save Kids from Sugar website features a tool, enabling parents to see how much sugar is in the breakfast cereals, drinks and snacks that their children consume.

Sugary drinks are one of the biggest sources of sugar in children’s diets – with some drinks having more than 13 sugar cubes in them.

When you add in a sugary breakfast cereal and snacks during the day, some children could be consuming the equivalent of 20 sugar cubes each day.

Some popular children’s cereals also contain more than three and a half sugar cubes in a small serving – resulting in children having more than half of their daily sugar allowance before they even get to school.

All this sugar can cause tooth decay, leading to pain, sleepless nights and days off school, as well as unhealthy weight gain and other health problems later in life. Research has linked sugar to mental health issues in children, impacting on their confidence and self-esteem.

The campaign is being backed by Liverpool dentist Stuart Garton, who has witnessed an increase in the number of children visiting his practice in Old Swan who need to have rotten teeth removed under anaesthetic before they even start school.

The following tips are being offered to help parents reduce their children’s sugar intake:

  • Offer children water or semi-skimmed milk rather than fizzy drinks, cordials and fruit juice. Liverpool’s tap water comes from Lake Vyrnwy in Wales, and has a quality and purity to rival top-selling waters.
  • The sugar found in sugary drinks, including fruit juice, can cause tooth decay
  • The acid found in all soft drinks, including diet and those with ‘no added sugar’ may cause enamel damage
  • Read labels and don’t buy high sugar foods and drinks – if they’re not in the house, young children can’t consume them.

To find out more, visit the campaign’s website at https://savekidsfromsugar.co.uk/

Cabinet Member for Health, Councillor Harry Doyle, said: “All the evidence we have shows families simply don’t realise how much sugar their children are consuming.

“There is an alarming amount of sugar in cereals, drinks and snacks and manufacturers are very clever at finding ways to make them attractive to children.

“The statistics do not lie and in recent years we have seen a steep rise in the number of five year olds with decayed, missing, or filled teeth, and an alarming level of childhood obesity.

“We want to help families get into healthy habits which will hopefully last a lifetime and prevent future unnecessary pain and trauma, as well as debilitating health conditions.”

Director of Public Health, Professor Matt Ashton, said: “We are facing a sugar epidemic which is having a shocking impact on our children and young people.

“Sugar is not just bad for your teeth, it also can lead to unhealthy weight, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers in the future.

“Even food that is perceived as healthy, such as cereal and flavoured yoghurts contain an unhealthy amount of sugar that can mean your child has had their recommended daily amount before they leave the house for school.

“If we are to stand any chance of tackling this ticking time bomb, we must give parents as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions.

“Most people don’t have the time to read labels when racing around the supermarket to complete their weekly shop and so we have launched our handy tool to support them to make healthier choices.”

Dentist Stuart Garton from The Dental House in Old Swan, said: “This is such a preventable problem, but unfortunately, the situation isn’t getting any better.

“When you are seeing children of just three and four, with up to eight or nine decayed teeth, it has to be because of the amount of sugar in their diet, and it is very sad to see.

“They often need to go under general anaesthetic to have their baby teeth removed, which can be very traumatic for both them and their families. Oral surgery at such a young age can cause problems such as gums sealing over when baby teeth are removed, which delays adult teeth coming through.

“Children starting school with lots of teeth missing may also experience bullying and this could affect their confidence and self-esteem.

“I’m really encouraged that Liverpool City Council is committed to this issue, as I’m sure it will have a big impact.”

Professor Sondos Albadri, Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at the University of Liverpool, said: “The current cost of living crisis is forcing people to make choices on what they spend their money on, and spending less on oral care products such as toothpaste and toothbrushes could lead to an increase in oral health inequalities. It can also lead to consumption of more processed high in sugar food.

“Dental decay is largely preventable, by making simple changes in children’s diet to reduce sugar intake, and ensuring they brush their teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, we can help our children have healthy, strong teeth for a lifetime”.

Liverpool Waterfront