RTE Television

Sugar Crash

In this one off documentary Dr.Eva Orsmond investigates Ireland's consumption of sugar and explores the latest research on serious health problems and their link to excessive sugar use. Dr. Eva finds out how we can cut back on our excessive use of sugar as she charts the progress of a Kilkenny family who are stunned to find out how much sugar is lurking in their 'normal' diet.

"Added sugar is public enemy No.1 in the Western diet. We are all over consuming sugar in Ireland. In 50 years time we will look back in horror." Health experts deliver chilling comments on the Ireland's love of sugar in a new documentary that lays bare the grim consequences of our national sweet tooth.

"Sugar is a dangerous molecule. We have hard and fast data for four diseases that sugar is causative for. We keep alcohol out of the hands of children but we don't think twice about giving them a glass of soda."

Ireland is the fourth highest consumer of sugar in the world but very few of us know how much sugar we are eating, which is, on average, 24 teaspoons a day. The World Health Organisation is worried about sugar. It recommends we cut our consumption to less than 6 teaspoons a day for health benefits.

This documentary reveals the shocking cost of our sugar habit in hospital admissions, long term illness and premature death. As the children of today face a shorter life expectancy than their parents this programme tells the story that we all need to understand if we want to change that stark prediction.

Sugar Crash airs on Monday, 11th January on RT One

Click here to find out how the Ryan family got on on their 30-day sugar challenge


With the help of Nutritional Therapist and Author, Elsa Jones, the Ryan family were given tips and advice on how to cut back their sugar intake

Stop fuelling your cravings
Once you address the root cause of your cravings, limiting your sugar intake becomes a lot easier. In a nutshell, the more sugary foods you consume, the more your body will crave them. The less you consume, the less you'll crave them. So, I recommend you start by identifying and reducing the biggest sources of sugar in your diet. For most, the obvious culprits are chocolate, biscuits, sweets, scones, soft drinks etc. Within a week of cutting down, you will notice a significant reduction in your cravings for sweet foods.

Set yourself up for success
As the saying goes, 'If you fail to plan, you plan to fail', so, take a little time to get organised and prepare your environment before making any dietary changes. If you want to reduce your sugar intake, I suggest you remove obvious sources of temptation where possible - if they're not there, you can't eat them. If you have chocolate, biscuits and sweets stocked in your presses at all times, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Ask for Support
If you share a kitchen with others at home/work, it can be helpful to ask for their support in keeping tempting foods out of sight, particularly at the start. So, for example, when a client of mine called Susan decided to reduce her sugar intake, she made a 'no sweets in the house rule' for the whole family. However, as a compromise, it was agreed that once a week her husband would take the kids out for a sweet treat. That way, the kids learned that sweets are not an everyday food and Susan was removed from all temptation.

Choose Slow-Release Carbs V's Fast-Release Carbs
Carbohydrates can be classed as fast or slow releasing. Fast release carbohydrates (e.g. white bread, white pasta, corn flakes, pizza) break down into glucose very rapidly which can lead to blood sugar 'highs' and 'lows'. Essentially, eating too many throws our blood sugar levels off balance leading to energy dips and further cravings for sweet or starchy foods, it's a vicious cycle. Conversely, slow release carbohydrates (brown rice, oats, quinoa) break down into glucose at a slower rate which helps to maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels.

Start as you mean to go on
What you choose to eat for breakfast can set the stage for controlling blood sugar for the rest of the day so make sure to eat a balanced breakfast. Porridge oats topped with berries & a sprinkle of nuts/seeds or eggs with wholegrain toast will keep blood sugars stable whereas concentrated fruit juices, highly processed cereals or those high in dried fruit will have the opposite effect.

Include a portion of protein with every meal
As well as being filling, protein helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which keeps sweet cravings at bay. Protein also provides the building blocks for brain chemicals which influence appetite and satiety. At meal times, aim to fill one quarter of your plate with protein rich food/s such as eggs, fish, poultry, nuts/seeds, beans or lentils.

Focus on the benefits
One essential technique that'll help you stay motivated is to continuously remind yourself of what you will gain by reducing your sugar intake and following a healthier diet. If you focus on the benefits, you'll be less likely to get swept away by cravings or feel deprived. Write the benefits down and put them somewhere you can read them everyday e.g. 'I'll feel good in a summer dress at my daughter's communion, I'll have more energy to exercise/play with kids, I'll be at less risk of developing type 2 Diabetes like my mother.'

Know your emotional triggers
If you're like most people who struggle with a sugar habit, much of your eating behaviour is probably driven by emotions. In other words, you don't choose to eat sugary foods just because you are physically hungry. You choose to eat sugary foods because you want to change or enhance the way you feel, this is known as 'emotional eating'. Take a moment to think about what feelings make you reach for comfort food? Is it stress, tiredness, boredom.perhaps there are certain times, people or places that trigger these feelings? Once you know, you'll be in a stronger position to overcome them.

Keep healthy snacks close to hand
You're much more likely to over-eat and/or choose the wrong type of foods when you are overly hungry and have a low blood sugar. Eating little and often counteracts this So, always make sure to have healthy snacks close to hand so you have no excuse when temptation strikes. Healthy snack options that will help to curb sugar cravings and stave off an afternoon slump include: a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit, natural yogurt with cinnamon and berries, nut butter spread on sliced apple or an oat cake topped with hummus.

Get Sugar Savvy
Because sugar is added to so many seemingly 'healthy' every day foods, it's important that we get savvy as consumers. On a food label, sugar comes under the heading of carbohydrates. Usually you will see something like 'Carbohydrate 29g of which sugars 12g'. This tells us how much of the carbohydrate in the product comes from sugar. A really simple and useful way of gauging sugar content is to remember that one teaspoon of sugar weighs four grams. So, for example, if a granola bar contains 16 grams of sugar per serving, that's equivalent to approximately 4 teaspoons which is rather a lot. If you know how to read a food label, then at least you can make an informed choice for you and your family.

Obesity Facts

The 'Healthy Ireland' study in 2015 found that 37% of the population overweight and a further 23% obese. Whilst men are more likely to be overweight than women (men: 43%, women: 31%), the proportions that are obese are more closely aligned (men: 25%, women: 22%)

Almost half (46%) of men aged 35 and over in Ireland are overweight and a further 32% are obese. The equivalent figures for women are 35% overweight and a further 27% obese.
(Healthy Ireland 2015)

A recent study by Safefood (2012) The cost of overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland: Executive summary suggested that the total of the direct and indirect costs of adult obesity in the Republic of Ireland is €1.13 billion annually accounting for 2.7% of the total health expenditure

1 in 4 children is overweight or obese. Obese children are likely to become obese adults.
Parent's find it difficult to recognise that their child's weight is not healthy.
Source: Safefood - http://www.safefood.eu/Childhood-Obesity/Facts.aspx#sthash.bBRwhZw0.dpuf

World Health Organisation - Key facts on Obesity

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
  • In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.
  • 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014, and 13% were obese.
  • Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013.
  • In 2013, 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese. Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.
  • Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight.
  • Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as: cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012; diabetes; musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis - a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints); some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).
  • The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with an increase in BMI.
  • Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood

Loughlinstown Weight Management Clinic info

  • Loughlinstown Weight Management Clinic opened 2004
  • The Clinic sees 200 new patients per year
  • There are 970 on a waiting list to get on the weight management programme.
  • The average age of people attending the Weight Management Clinic is 44 and the average body mass index is 46.
  • There are over 250 patients on the waiting list for gastric bypass surgery (having gone through the service at Loughlinstown).
  • Prof. Donal O'Shea says he has seen patients getting younger and bigger - "This year started for me with a patient over 320 kilos in his 30's. I never envisaged the scale of the patients we are seeing being unlimited in Ireland, but we are referred patients who are no longer able to leave the house and the biggest patient we have seen was a housebound lady from the midlands with a BMI of 114."

W82go Programme at Temple Street Hosp. (FOR CHILDREN)

  • The W82GO programme in Temple Street Children's Hospital started in 2005 and there were approximately 60 children on the programme that year.
  • Today that number has risen to an average of 220 children seen by the service annually.
  • Currently the longest wait time to be seen in clinic is 27 weeks and there are currently 73 waiting for an appointment with the clinic.
  • The youngest child referred to the clinic for weight management is 10 months.
  • "The average patient is 10.5 years old, weighs 70 kg (11 stone) and has a BMI classifying them as clinically obese. For example if we took 100 boys at 10.5 years of age and calculated a BMI for them we are seeing the top 1% most obese."

Sugar Crash
  • RT One, Monday 11th January, 9.35pm