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Limit sale of ‘sugar drinks’ to students

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

School children in T&T are now bombarded by sweetened drinks and high fatty foods than ever before in our history. Medical studies now attribute that diets high in sugar and fats are responsible for childhood obesity and dental disease, and medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer later on in life. The WHO advises that sweetened drinks may contain ten spoonfuls of sugar or more while other studies have shown that this generation of children are washing their teeth with sugar and acid from these drinks.

While the emphasis may be on the Ministries of Health and Education to set policies on school nutrition, it should be equally impera- tive that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) in each school demands better from the school cafeterias to provide healthier and cheap alternatives to sweetened drinks, and snacks and food high in sugar and fat. The PTA should work closely with the cafeterias and tuck shops to ensure that they purchase less high-calorie products and more low-calorie nutritious snacks and drinks, as well as provide a variety of fruits. It would also be up to parents and teachers to promote the purchase of these items with-in the home and school. We don’t need more studies and consultations to tell us what we have known for many years—sweetened drinks and snacks are the leading cause of childhood obesity and numerous medical problems in children.

It is therefore up to the PTA and school cafeterias to decide if they limit the purchase of sweetened drinks and snack or if the Government should use its legislative arm to ban those products from schools. It would also be best that soft drink manufacturers become proactive and provide schools with more nutritious alternatives. We must also be careful not to replace sweetened drinks with so-called “juice drinks” and “energy drinks,” also loaded with sugar and very little nutritious content. The T&T Association of Nutritionists and Dieticians should become more vocal and recommend to all schools an ideal list of snacks and drinks to be used. It is about time that we get serious and look after the health of our nation’s children. Adults should also be advised to follow suit.

Dr Navi Muradali
Via e-mail


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