Samantha Rolfe

Astronomy and Astrobiology

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Review – BBC 1, “The Truth About…”, Episode One: Sugar

Available on BBC iPlayer, (as of posting) for 18 days

I heard bits and pieces about this programme at work as we chatted over lunch, so caught up on iPlayer. The main thing from the show that came out of our lunchtime discussion was the idea that all sugars were processed by your body the same – e.g. that brown sugar is just as bad for you as white – having heard in the past that brown is better for you than white, choosing brown sugar at the coffee shop was pointless it turns out… though I do prefer the taste. These types of myths, busted! (“Everything in moderation!”, my colleague would declare, that’s her motto).

As someone who has fairly recently, in the past two years, been attempting to get fit and healthier, my relationship with sugar is not one I had considered too closely. To lose weight I initially cut down my fat intake, but of course sugar is converted to fat if you don’t move about! So, though I reduced sugary snacks, I never considered the sugar in the other foods I was eating, i.e. mainly “savoury” items! And “healthy” options like cereal bars too would seem to be packing high levels of sugar!

How much sugar are you eating? – the World Health Organisation (WHO) says 12 teaspoons a day is ok, but has begun to recommend that we try to keep this to six! (1 *level* teaspoon = 4 g).

I use the app MyFitnessPal and it recommends that my base rate intake of sugar (which would increase according to the level of exercise I do that day) is 11.25 teaspoons of sugar (WHO, you’ve done it again!).

According to “The Truth About” sugars that are in fruits don’t count towards your recommended daily allowance, so this is where MyFitnessPal falls down slightly because it doesn’t/can’t differentiate between fruits and other sugars when you input items (perhaps something for the future…?)

What I liked about this programme was that it really made you think about all the sources of sugar in our diets. We were up searching through our cupboards, looking at our regularly consumed items to see how much sugar was in them before the programme was even halfway through.

It combined “ask the audience” – out on the street, getting the public to guess how much sugar they thought would be in certain everyday items (always hideously underestimating! Really made it obvious that we, generally, still have no idea what we are eating!); “case studies” – four volunteers had their diets laid bare, how much sugar they consumed per day, tests to see how it has affected their health and a challenge to cut down and hopefully improve their long term health by avoiding health issues such as obesity and diabetes; and “ask the scientist” – various scientists from different fields in the area discussed different aspects of sugar and our diets. All very interesting! Especially the bit about food packaging, there is so much information on packets now, but if you don’t know how to use it then it is no good. If an item of food has 22.5 g of sugar per 100 g then that is a high sugar content. Check the back of the packet, not just the portioned version of the sugar content on the front, e.g. a 30 g portion of x contains y g of sugar, that’s not that helpful in understanding the overall sugar content compared to other items which may have different portion sizes. Skittles 90.3 g per 100 g… just so you know.

Take the six teaspoon challenge! Can you cut your sugar intake down to six teaspoons (24 g) or less a day?

Nonetheless, while watching said programme I munched on two cookies. Which had 13 g of sugar per cookie!!!! Whoops. Challenge starts *now*!

I’m looking forward to the second episode: The Truth About…. Calories, especially since I’ve been watching them rack up on MyFitnessPal for almost a year now!

Enjoy! And good luck!