Media watch

New Zealand media headlines - January 2018

Catch up on the most topical issues in sugars and health making the headlines this month.

1. Study finds New Zealand beverages contain higher levels of sugar than other Western Countries…but is it all that it seems?

The University of Waikato made waves across New Zealand media this month when they released information from a study which compared the nutrition content and serving size of five categories of non-alcoholic beverages in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK. Lead author, Lynne Chepulis, said the “average fruit juice or soda in New Zealand has up to five to six teaspoons of sugar, compared to maybe three to four teaspoons in the United Kingdom.” Herself and a number of other New Zealand Public Health spokespeople, such as Rob Beaglehole and Gerhard Sundborn, blame a ‘lack of regulation in the food and beverage industry for the high sugar levels’.

The results are yet to be published, however it appears that drink categories available to each market as a whole have been compared, rather than individual beverages across countries. We await the publication date for this study.

2. King’s College in London reports on the association of sleep and added sugar intake

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults up to the age 65 for healthy brain function and emotional wellbeing, physical health, energy and appetite regulation, healing and repair, immune system function, productivity, work performance and safety. Scientists from King’s College, London, recently studied 42 volunteers who admitted to sleeping less than the recommendations.

Half of the volunteers were given personal sleep counselling sessions and asked to keep the same bed time each night, stay away from caffeine and electronics before bed, be conscious about their eating habits so they weren’t too hungry or too full before bed and to use techniques to relax during the evening. The other half of the volunteers were not given any advice. Both groups wore sleep trackers and kept detailed food diaries throughout the four-week study.

The intervention group increased their average sleep each night by 90 minutes, and their food diaries showed that they consumed on average 10 grams less free sugars per day. Researchers hypothesised that sleep deprivation can be a risk factor for obesity. The results of this study align with previous research that followed 1500 volunteers over six years and found that those who became obese during the study slept on average 6.3 hours per night compared to volunteers who kept a healthier body weight and slept on average 7.2 hours per night.

3. Energy drinks to lose their ‘buzz’?

New Zealand’s leading supermarkets have announced they will not be restricting the sale of energy drinks to under 16-year olds after four major British supermarket chains committed to a restriction in mid-January. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) standards state that a cup of coffee the same size as an energy drink (250mL) has similar amounts of caffeine. Nutritionist, Claire Turnbull, says “more research is needed before a compulsory ban could be made…and energy drinks are not just highly caffeinated – they are full of sugar”.

As a follow on to this, in late January it was announced that two Auckland University of Technology students have received a grant of $30,000 to develop a new healthy energy drink – called Beta Energy. Beta Energy will have 3 teaspoons of sugar per 250mL, which is derived from apples. The ‘energy’ will come from a caffeinated ‘super leaf’ from South America. The beverage is undergoing scientific tests and is said to launch this summer.

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