Sugar shock: leading GP reveals the bitter truth

Dr Anil Chopra talks about Healthy Eating to children at Herington House School

A leading GP has exploded the myth about fat in the diet and revealed the bitter truth about sugar.

Dr Anil Chopra, Chair of NHS Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has delivered a lesson in healthy eating targeting children and their parents.

Dr Chopra, whose specialty is diabetes, has warned that obesity is a ticking time-bomb for local health services that must be defused by a change in diet and lifestyle.

Nationally one in 10 children are obese when they start primary school but one in five are obese by the end. Six out of ten young adults are either overweight or obese.

The rise in childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges for the NHS as becoming overweight can lead to a number of serious medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Dr Chopra, a GP Partner from the Kingswood Surgery in Basildon, says sugar not fat is the real villain in the obesity epidemic.

Dr Chopra, who gave a talk on healthy eating to children at Herington House School in Shenfield, said: “Children are eating three times the recommended amount of sugar. The realisation that sugar is a problem is becoming more and more widespread but the messages are still mixed. Excess sugar is converted to fat by the body and stored making people fat. Eating good fats, such as oils from plants and oily fish, helps you stay healthy.

“People are also getting the fruit and veg five-a-day message wrong. It’s not five fruits a day – it should be one fruit and four vegetables. That is because one of the sugars found in fruit is fructose. When people eat a diet high in fructose, the liver gets overloaded and turns the fructose into fat.

“Fruit based smoothies are bad because they are high in fructose and the good fibre found in fruit has been finely blitzed. Vegetable smoothies are better.

“The old saying ‘an apple a day, keeps the doctor away’ was correct and that means we should be eating one apple and four veg.

“Low fat products and diet drinks are another myth. They are loaded with artificial sweeteners and the problem is that when you consume them the body does not realise it is full and will continue to signal that it needs more food. On average people who have low fat products and diet drinks will put on three inches around their middle over ten years while those who eat normally will typically gain one inch in a decade.”

Dr Chopra’s healthy eating daily guidelines for children aged five to ten are:

Total fat: 35g (good fats are plant based oils, oil from fish. Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats found in many fast foods, bakery goods and margarines)
Carbohydrate: 220g
(of which Sugar: 20g)
Salt: 3-5g
Protein (fish, lean unprocessed meat, cheese etc.): 20-28g

Include 1 portion of fruit and 4 portions of veg

Milk or water to drink

It’s also important to balance the time spent gaming or watching TV with an equal amount of physical activity

● Basildon and Brentwood CCG - whose role is to commission the majority of NHS services for local people - is backing a new Public Health England campaign to cut the amount of sugar children are eating with the aim of tackling obesity and preventing tooth decay.

Parents and children are being urged to sign up for the free Change4Life Sugar Smart app which scans the bar codes of popular food and drink products to reveal the sugar content in sugar cubes or grams. Find more information here