Locals' diet unhealthy, says study

The consumption of sugary and fizzy drinks has steadily fallen in the United States for the last 11 years. ©rez-art/Istock.com
The consumption of sugary and fizzy drinks has steadily fallen in the United States for the last 11 years. ©rez-art/Istock.com

As the bitter debate on the proposed sugar tax rages on, research has found that South Africans are eating too much sugar and carbs.

The study, funded by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, also found that we are not consuming enough protein.

Prof Hettie Schönfeldt from the University of Pretoria and colleagues from the University of Cape Town as well as the Human Sciences Research Council reviewed dietary studies, conducted between 2000 and 2015, to establish South Africans' dietary intake and deficiencies.

In a statement issued by the centre, the study confirmed that we are eating too many refined foods.

In addition, even in rural areas, diets are changing to energy-rich but nutrient-poor foods.

"... in the light of the aforementioned evidence, it is also clear that education regarding the importance of moderate total food energy and sugar-added beverage intake is mandatory,'' the study recommended. "Furthermore, the importance of fibre, good fats and sources of proteins as well as vitamin- and mineral-rich fruit and vegetables need to be advocated."

In parliament this week, the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages came under the spotlight.

Professor Tolu Oni, from UCT's School of Public Health, told the joint meeting of parliament's health and finance committees that statistics showed the global average of Coca-Cola products consumed per person per year was 89. In SA in 2010, the figure was 254. She also said SA had the second-highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in children between the ages of nine and 10. It is also the most obese nation in sub-Saharan Africa.

And the Department of Health's Dr Malcolm Freeman said South Africans' poor diets were a burden on the state, which is struggling under the burden of high and rising rates of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

BevSA, which represents drinks manufacturers like Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Tiger Brands, however said that the tax would cause serious problems for the industry.

BevSA's Mapule Ncanywa told the committees that, together, their industry created 300000 jobs and contributed billions or rands in annual taxes.

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