All posts by Matthew Donnelly


Reducing sugar content in sugar-sweetened drinks by 40% over 5 years could prevent 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes in the next two decades

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A new study published today in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology shows that reducing free sugars content in sugars content in sugar sweetened drinks (including fruit juices) in the UK by over 40% over five years, without replacing them with any non-nutritive sweeteners, could prevent around 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes over two decades- with major cost savings to the NHS.

Based on the UK’s salt reduction programme that has seen salt content in many food products successfully reduced by 40% over five years, the authors decided to do a study on the effects of a similar reduction in added free sugars. Using national representative data from the 2008-2012 National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme and British Soft Drinks Association annual reports, the authors calculated sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption level (both with and without fruit juices) and its contribution to free sugars and energy intakes in the UK population.

The calculations showed that a 40% reduction in free sugars added to SSBs over five years would lead to an average reduction in energy intake of 38 kcal per day by the end of the fifth year. This would lead to an average reduction in body weight of 1.20kg in adults, resulting in a reduction in overweight and obese adults by approximately half a million and 1 million respectively. This would in turn prevent between 274,000-309,000 obesity-related type 2 diabetes cases over the next two decades.

If fruit juices were excluded from SSBs, the corresponding reduction in energy intake and body weight would be 31 kcal/day and 0.96kg respectively. This would result in 300,000 fewer cases of overweight people and 800,000 fewer cases of obese individuals, which would in turn prevent around 221,000-250,000 diabetes cases over two decades. The predicted impact was greater in adolescents, young adults and individuals from low income families who consume more SSBs.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar, says:

“Our study shows this strategy could have a profound impact on reducing energy intake from SSBs and could therefore lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the long term.”

“The Prime Minister can no longer ignore the fact that the current nutrition policies are not working. Action on Sugar has developed a coherent evidence-based strategy which starts with setting of incremental sugar reduction targets for soft drinks and a further 6 actions to follow. These actions require a government-funded but independent nutrition agency, which can set mandatory targets with robust enforcement. In support of this the British Retail Consortium is now calling for regulated sugar, fat and salt reduction targets.”

“The UK food and drink industry could lead the world in preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Registered Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, Researcher of Action on Sugar, says:

“We have become a nation hooked on the sweet stuff, expecting all our food and drink to taste incredibly sweet, and it is making us overweight and obese. Merely having the option of ‘diet’ or ‘no sugar’ products does not work. Food and drink companies must slowly and gradually reduce the sugar and the sweetness, as they have already done for salt, so we can all get used to far less sugar in our diet.”


Get ‘Sugar Smart’ this January!

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A new campaign has been launched encouraging parents to get ‘Sugar Smart’ and take control of their children’s sugar intake.

The Change4Life campaign follows revelations that four-to-10 year olds consume an estimated 5,500 sugar cubes a year (22kg), weighing the same as an average five year old.

Currently, a third of children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. This means they are more likely to become obese adults who are more prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Nationally, there are now 2.5 milli0n people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, 90% of which are overweight or obese.

A new Sugar Smart app has been launched to help parents to see how much sugar there is in everyday food and drink. The free app works by scanning the barcode of products and revealing the amount of total sugar it contains in cubes and grams.

Change4Life has created an eye-opening short film, which warns parents about the health harms of eating and drinking too much sugar, including becoming overweight and tooth decay. The film brings to life the excessive amount of sugar consumed by the average child per year; currently three times more than the new maximum recommended daily amount.

The campaign reveals the sugar content of everyday food and drink; a 43g chocolate bar contains six cubes of sugar, a 200ml juice drink contains over five cubes and there are nine sugar cubes in a can of cola, instantly taking children up to or over their recommended maximum for the day.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, said: ‘Children are having too much sugar, three times the maximum recommended amount. This can lead to painful tooth decay, weight gain and obesity, which can also affect children’s wellbeing as they are more likely to be bullied, have low-self esteem and miss school.’

‘Children aged five shouldn’t have more than 19 grams of sugar per day- that’s five cubes, but it’s very easy to have more. That’s why we want parents to be “Sugar Smart”. Our easy to use app will help parents see exactly where the sugar in their children’s diet is coming from, so they can make informed choices about what to cut down on.’

Singer and TV presenter Jamelia is supporting the campaign and starring in a series of Sugar Smart films from January, she says: ‘One of the trickiest challenges as a mum is trying to avoid sugar sneaking into my children’s diets. Supporting this new Change4Life campaign has opened my eyes to how much sugar is in the everyday food and drink we eat and drink. It’s so important to take control of the amount of sugar our kids are eating and act now. I’d recommend all parents download the Sugar Smart app to uncover sugar that’s in their everyday food and drink to make healthier choices when food shopping.”

Five million Sugar Smart packs will be given away to primary school children and their families via schools, local authorities and retailers. There will be 25 Change4Life Sugar Smart roadshows, taking place across the country from January to March. Five major supermarkets have also pledged to support the campaign through educating and helping customers to make healthier food choices when shopping.

You can download the Change4Life Sugar Smart app to find out how much sugar is in the food and drink your family consumes every day and search ‘Change4Life’ for lots of free support, tips, ideas and recipes.


Public Health England urges parents to cut sugary drinks from children’s diets

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Public Health England (PHE) follow recommendations of independent carbohydrates and health report, including halving sugar consumption.

PHE have called on parents and families to cut sugary drinks from their children’s daily diet, after independent nutrition experts say the country consumes too much sugar, leading to major health consequences.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) final report on carbohydrates and health, published in July 2015, recommended a significant cut to the amount of sugars people consume as part of their daily calorie intake- halved from 10% to 5%. The report also recommends that consumption of sugar sweetened drinks is minimised and fibre increased.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said:

“Sugary drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet, but account for almost a third of their daily sugar intake. Too much sugar leads to excess calorie intake, weight gain and obesity, itself leading to heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes in adults.”

A Quick Swig

A quick swig: a nasty surprise for your health this Christmas

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As sugary drinks manufacturers gear-up to promote their products this Christmas, and as we reach the end of the UK’s first ever Sugar Awareness Week, health activists from the Give Up Loving Pop campaign are hitting back at industry with their new film ‘A Quick Swig‘ which highlights the health harms associated with the consumption of sugary drinks.

With many towns and cities receiving a visit from the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck this December ‘A Quick Swig‘ aims to get the public to think again before they are tempted to indulge in ‘liquid sugar’. Designed to mimic the marketing efforts of the big sugary drinks manufacturers, ‘A Quick Swig’ shows how overconsumption of sugary drinks can lead to nasty surprises for your health including obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.

Robin Ireland, Director of the Give Up Loving Pop campaign, comments:

“Coca-Cola and others really go out of their way during the festive season to push their products on the public. But our new animation A Quick Swig hopes to counter this marketing and to show the sugary drinks companies for what they are- A Bad Santa: promoting products that can lead to long term health conditions- which are not exactly the sort of presents that you want to receive at Christmas.”

“With one in three children leaving primary school classed as overweight or obese, we’re working hard at Give Up Loving Pop to get the message out to the public that A Quick Swig of a sugary drink is not necessary this Christmas!”

View A Quick Swig below!

nestle books

Book Review: Soda Politics

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With Sugar Awareness Week upon us, Give Up Loving Pop Director, Robin Ireland, reviews the latest book from esteemed food campaigner Marion Nestle- ‘Soda Politics- Taking on Big Soda (And Winning).

Soda Politics by Dr. Marion Nestle (Oxford University Press, 2015) is a large book written from a North American perspective but well worth a read as the argument for a sugar tax intensifies with the backing of the Commons’ Health Committee today.

As a British advocate, there are some fascinating historical insights on Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, the giants in the field. But there is also so much which is familiar as the ‘Soda’ industry does its best to counter the possibility of a sugar tax, supports front ‘pro sugar’ groups, funds research to obfuscate public health messages whilst doing its best to discredit campaigns like Give Up Loving Pop (GULP).

Marion Nestle describes the strong evidence between sugary drink consumption and obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental decay. She details the profits made from products which are 90% water and the environmental impact of their production. There is a lot of well-researched information on how the sugary drinks industry works and how it markets its products and it certainly starts early. A former Coca-Cola executive is quoted saying “90 percent of all soft drink marketing is targeted at 12 to 24 year olds”. And in every chapter there are tips for effective advocacy.

As the health lobby’s messages that sugary drinks contain only empty calories with no nutritional benefit start to become resonant with the public and the media, so ‘astroturf’ (artificially green and grassroots) front groups are becoming more common. These groups (and sometimes individuals) try to discredit critics through ridicule and terms such as ‘food police’ and ‘nannies’. Pretty familiar stuff to those of us who use social media. And, for the American Beverage Association’s actions which Marion Nestle describes, you have the Food and Drink Federation and British Soft Drinks Association in the UK who tried to stop Food Active publishing its eye-catching GULP images earlier this year. A shopping centre in the North West of England also refused our GULP roadshow booking because of its commercial relationship with Coca-Cola. The book lists many American equivalents.

I enjoyed the practical sections on advocacy in New York City, California and elsewhere. The description of a tax on ‘sodas’ and junk foods which has been successfully implemented in Mexico is particularly encouraging. British advocates of a sugar tax are rehearsing their arguments as I write. Marion Nestle advocates that such arguments gain more traction is revenues are used to fund public health programmes as in Mexico and as suggested by Jamie Oliver and Sustain’s Children’s Health Fund in the UK.

This is a food advocates’ book which forensically analyses the tactics of the ‘Soda’ industry. As Dr Margaret Chan of the World Health Organisation says, it ‘will open the eyes of the public and parliamentarians to the health hazards of what is essentially liquid candy in a bottle.’

sugar petition

Parliamentary debate on sugary drinks

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We are very pleased to see that the Petitions Committee have agreed to hold a Parliamentary Debate on a Sugary Drinks Duty on Monday 30th November, 4.30pm-7.30pm in Westminster Hall. This is a result of Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary and the petition from the Children’s Food Campaign, which now has over 150,000 signatures.

In a show of support for the sugary drinks duty we have written to every MP across the North West of England urging them to attend the debate and to consider the benefits a sugary drinks duty would bring to the health and wellbeing of the region’s children, young people and adults.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear MP,

You may be aware from recent media coverage that the restauranteur and children’s food campaigner Jamie Oliver has been campaigning to build support for the introduction of a duty on sugary drinks.

Working alongside Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, a parliamentary petition was launched during the summer to build public support for the duty. We are delighted to learn that following Jamie’s ‘Sugar Rush’ documentary, over 150,000 signatures were received and the issue of a sugary drinks duty will be formally debated in Parliament on Monday 30th November.

Food Active is a healthy weight campaign, commissioned from local social enterprise, Health Equalities Group, by the North West Directors of Public Health. You can find out more at Food Active acknowledges the importance of the public’s appreciation of the impact excess sugar consumption has on health; particularly regarding the recent WHO and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommendations to reduce daily energy intake from sugar from 10% to 5%.

Based on the revised guidance for sugar intake, children and young people in the UK are consuming almost triple the recommendations with sugary drinks being by far the largest contributor. Food Active’s Give Up Loving Pop (Gulp) campaign has been working with communities across the North West of England to raise awareness of the impact of excessive sugary drinks consumption and to build support for a sugary drinks duty.

Most recently, as a result of the recent Health Select Committee inquiry into childhood obesity, Public Health England have released their analysis of the evidence for a national sugar reduction strategy; this addresses issues such as fiscal measures and acknowledges their potential impact.

The Petitions Committee have agreed to hold a three-hour Westminster Hall debate- with MPs speaking for and against the introduction of a duty, and a response from a Government minister, from 4.30pm on the 30th November. Food Active would like to request you may consider the evidence in support of a duty on sugary drinks and consider taking part in the debate.

In addition, prior to the debate, the Health Select Committee will be launching its report of their inquiry into childhood obesity at 3.30pm during a special briefing event hosted by Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the committee.]


The Food Active team.



Give Up Loving Pop for World Diabetes Day

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Saturday 14th November is World Diabetes Day which seeks to raise awareness of the condition and educate and inform the public about global efforts to deal with what is an escalating public health issue.

To support the day, the Give Up Loving Pop campaign is releasing a series of free resource packs which are packed with all the information that you need to kick sugary drinks from your diet.

Why Give Up Loving Pop?

Recent research conducted by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) indicates that consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.(1)

Equally, data from the National Diet & Nutrition Survey indicate that sugary drinks are the main source of excess sugar in most people’s diets.(2)

So giving up sugary drinks is the easiest way to cut excess sugar from your diet!

Robin Ireland, Director of the Give Up Loving Pop campaign, said:

“We are pleased to be supporting World Diabetes Day with the release of our Gulp resource packs. The increase of type 2 diabetes in the UK is a worrying development. Not only is this a life-changing long-term health condition, but it is also placing increasing strain upon our already-stretched health care system.”

“But by giving up loving pop, we hope that people can begin to easily cut sugar from their diet and live healthier, happier lives. So don’t delay, kick the pop today.”

The Gulp resource packs are available via the individual links below:


Notes to editors:

Give Up Loving Pop is England’s first campaign highlighting the health harms associated with the consumption of sugary drinks. Launched in early-2015 the Give Up Loving Pop campaign is run by the Health Equalities Group; a Liverpool-based social enterprise whose mission is to improve the health of the public through informative health information campaigns. You can find out more about the Give Up Loving Pop campaign at:

For further information or to arrange interviews/quotes please contact our press officer on 0151 237 2686.


1. SACN Carbohydrates and Health Report, published 17th July 2015

2. Data derived from the National Diet & Nutrition Survey, rolling programme 2008-12.


Soda Politics2

Gulp featured in new ‘Soda Politics’ book

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We are proud to say that Give Up Loving Pop has made its way into the pages of a new book from renowned food writer and Professor of Nutrition, Marion Nestle.

Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda examines all of the ways that the soft drink industry works overtime to make drinking soda as common and accepted as drinking water, for adults and children. Soda Politics shows how sodas are principally miracles of advertising; Coca-Cola and PepsiCo spend billions of dollars each year to promote their sale to children, minorities, and low-income populations, in developing as well as industrialised nations. And once they have stimulated that demand, they leave no stone unturned to protect profits.

Give Up Loving Pop is referenced as a campaign that is successfully taking the fight to Big Soda and having an effect on the consumption of sugary drinks in the UK (see full quote below):

Soda Politics Gulp Reference



Cereal killers: the stealth sugars lurking in breakfast drinks

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New research from the Give Up Loving Pop (Gulp) campaign has revealed the extremely high levels of sugar in ‘breakfast drinks’; a new, fast-growing product category of drinks that have recently arrived in the UK.

  • 18 out of 20 breakfast drinks surveyed contain dangerously high levels of sugar (>13.5g/portion or 11.25g/100ml) contributing to tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
  • Products such as Fuel 10k’s Chocolate Breakfast Milk Drink are slipping under the radar despite containing only three grams of sugar less than a standard can of Coca-Cola.
  • The ‘breakfast in a bottle’ concept- which includes products such as Fuel 10k, Weetabix On The Go, and Up&Go- is challenging the existing breakfast market, and has rapidly grown from nothing to £13m in three years. (1)
  • Breakfast is fast becoming an inconvenience in the UK; last year, Brits consumed breakfast on the go an estimated 205 million times, up 13% on the previous year (2), and more food-to-go solutions are expected.

Following the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s(SACN) report on Carbohydrates and Health (3) this summer, which suggested slashing our sugar intake by half, and vocal concerns about sugar from food campaigner, Jamie Oliver, breakfast drinks represent a new example of ‘stealthy sugars’.

Whilst the public are aware of the high sugar content of many popular soft drinks, and with the government facing calls to introduce a tax to reduce their consumption, research from the Give Up Loving Pop campaign reveals a new generation of breakfast drinks whose high sugar content is flying under the radar.

Stroll down the breakfast aisle in your local supermarket and you may not realise that breakfast drinks such as ‘Weetabix On The Go: Chocolate’ contain as much as 25g of sugar per serving (6 teaspoons). Similar offenders include the Up&Go Strawberry breakfast drink packed with 18.5g of sugar per serving (5 teaspoons). Demand for ‘breakfast in a bottle’ is growing rapidly creating a market worth £13million in less than three years.

With the UK’s growing obesity problem seeing no signs of slowing, public health campaigners are worried that the rise of breakfast drinks will draw the public away from healthier breakfast options and toward the consumption of breakfast drinks, that the research reveals, are often little better than Coca Cola.

Robin Ireland, Director of the Give Up Loving Pop campaign, comments:

“Breakfast should be the most important meal of the day, but with these ‘breakfast in a bottle’ drinks we’re seeing yet another avenue for sugar to infiltrate our daily diets. Our research reveals that the food and drink industry is still finding new and innovative ways to stealthily pack sugar into every meal of the day.”

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to anticipate where sugar will turn up next in food and drinks.”

“With the nation struggling with bulging waistlines, the last thing we need are more stealthy sugars in our food and drinks. Recent scientific recommendations suggest that we should limit our consumption to 25-35g of sugar per day at most. We stand little chance of meeting these recommendations when people are likely to be drinking breakfast drinks not knowing that they sometimes contain as much as 32g of sugar per serving, just 3g of sugar less than a can of Coca-Cola!”

“You would assume that breakfast in a bottle would be the healthy option in the morning; but with some of these breakfast drinks you are almost drinking as much sugar as a can of coke!”


1) The Grocer (2015). Can breakfast drinks really hit £100 million in the next five years? (Accessed 08/09/2015) from:

2) The Grocer (2015). Pace of life pushes up breakfast on the go occasions up 13% (Accessed 08/09/2015) from:

3) SACN. (2015). Carbohydrates and Health.

Appendix 1

Gulp Breakfast Drinks Survey 2015- All Data (PDF)

Notes to editors

  • Give Up Loving Pop is England’s first campaign highlighting the health harms associated with the consumption of sugary drinks;. Launched in early 2015 the Give Up Loving Pop campaign is run by the Health Equalities Group; a Liverpool-based social enterprise whose mission is to improve the health of the public through informative health information campaigns. You can find out more about the Give Up Loving Pop campaign at
  • Research details- full survey sorted by sugar (g) per serving.
  • 20 products were identified by searching for terms such as ‘breakfast drink’ and known brands through the online grocery websites of the big four supermarkets: Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
  • Full product details can be found in Appendix 1.
  • Colour coding based on new front of pack colour-coded nutrition labelling criteria. Sugars: Red>13.5g/portion or >11.25g/100ml; Amber >2.5<11.25g/100ml; Green <2.25g/100ml
  • Research was carried out by Michael Viggars, Researcher at the Give Up Loving Pop campaign.
  • The breakfast cereal marketplace may ultimately lose out to the expediency of the ‘breakfast in a bottle’ concept which generated £6.6 million for the Weetabix On The Go drink range in the UK alone last year with Fuel 10k also pushing the £1 million mark. Australia’s Up&Go breakfast drink entered the UK market in January 2015 and other cereal producers, particularly respected cereal producers such as Kellogg’s who have an established US brand- Kellogg’s To Go- will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on how the marketplace develops.
  • All this comes at a time when breakfast on the go is booming. Brits have carried breakfast out of the home and eaten it an estimated 205 million times in the past year, an increase of 13.2%. Spar grocery trading manager Henry Goodchild said, “We expect to see further focus on food-to-go solutions such as cereal and porridge pots in order to take advantage of the trend of eating outside the home”.


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As Coca-Cola announce their Christmas Truck Tour, Director of the Give Up Loving Pop campaign, Robin Ireland, takes a closer look at the ‘Holidays Are Coming’ phenomenon.

The Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour is now in its twentieth year and has become a regular feature of festive TV schedules in more than 100 countries. In 2013, the truck’s tour website received nearly two million hits. In total, 200,000 people appeared in the photos taken from the visits and the hashtag #HolidaysAreComing was shared 57 million times. How do I know all this? Because every year the media more or less reprint Coca-Cola’s press release as shorthand to tell us Christmas (the ‘holidays?’) is in the way.

So that’s 57 million times Coca-Cola’s logo has been a backdrop to lots of smiling children and their mums and dads. Not the Diet Coke logo, not the Coca-Cola Zero logo and not the Coca-Cola Life brand. Nope, just good old American Coca-Cola in the original red and white colours. Coke argue that they don’t give out samples from their truck to children under 12 years- at least without parental consent. So they are not really promoting a sugary drink to young children then… and I believe in Father Christmas.

In case you missed the concern raised by Jamie Oliver and an army of health experts over the last year, just one can of standard Coca-Cola contains 7 teaspoons of sugar; enough sugar to total your recommended maximum daily amount in one long swallow.

Coca-Cola is the fourth most valuable brand in the world apparently (Forbes, 2015); after Apple, Microsoft and Google. A drink that may be more available than fresh water in some parts of the globe. And the sugary concoction that has taken over the Mexican market so completely (Coca-Cola controls 73% of the Mexican fizzy drinks market) that it is no surprise that Mexico has some of the worst problems with obesity and type 2 diabetes in the world. And also why Mexico imposed a Soda Tax in 2014.

So, why is it that our towns and cities welcome a mobile advert into the heart of our shopping areas when 25% of our five year olds have tooth decay, 20% of 10-11 year olds are obese and the NHS may cave in under the cost of treating type 2 diabetics?

That big shiny truck- half surprised Coke hasn’t signed up Jeremy Clarkson wearing a grey beard as well- is spreading more sugary nonsense on the back of linking itself to a festival we are all waiting for in this time of austerity. But Coca-Cola can afford it can’t they from those massive profits. The rest of us are struggling to buy presents and pay the dentist’s bill. For 80 years, Coca-Cola has used Santa Claus and Christmas to promote its sugary pop. Haven’t we grown up enough by now to say this is one present we can do without?