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NUTRITION & HEALTH


The sale of sugar-heavy super-size soft drinks has been banned in New York City


While most health commentators agree that over-consumption of sugar is an issue, there’s confl ict about how to tackle the problem


says. “Research shows that every 10 per cent increase in the price of cigarettes causes a 4 per cent drop in consumption.” But unlike tobacco, sugar is found in staple items as well as junk food. And isn’t there a danger that the cost of such a tax will merely be passed onto the consumer? “There’s a lot of detail that needs to be looked at,” admits Mills, “such as whether you tax the core ingredient or tax it at a retail level, and what kind of levels you set in terms of sugar content – but it’s do-able,” he says. However, not everyone accepts this argu- ment. “The evidence for food taxes is limited,” says Jebb. “Most data comes from modelling studies, not actual experiments. These sug- gest that, if people behave in a totally rational way, then a tax would reduce intake, but with such complex behaviour as eating and with so many choices available, it’s by no means clear that the predicted effects would occur.”


EDUCATING THE INFLUENTIAL But whatever the approach at a national level, what can individual wellness, spa and fi tness operators do about any of this? Ukactive’s Stalker believes one of the most important steps is to alert the public to the potential dangers of sugar is to focus more


on education. This would require “upskill- ing professionals [staff] so they’re able to give good nutritional advice, as well as on physical activity”. But can this kind of ‘nudging’ really make a difference when up against the Big Food?


“We don’t have the marketing budget to compete,” admits Stalker. “But we’re getting a lot more press coverage encouraging people to make healthy lifestyle changes, and those people need somewhere they can go to get professional guidance – not just on how to do a press-up but also on how they can eat well.” Mills adds: “It’s important to remem- ber that we have some of society’s most affl uent and infl uential people coming to our facilities too, and that’s a very important group to educate. If you educate these people, then you can also start to change society. They’ll not only be motivated to change their own behaviour but they can also help us to lobby government.” If fitness and wellness facilities are to become a hub for advice, however, they’ll need to take a look at their own food and beverage offerings which can, ironically, sometimes include junk food and tempting ‘naughty desserts’ or sugar loaded supple- ments and sports drinks.


84 Read Spa Business online spabusiness.com / digital


TALKING IT OVER For the time being then, the debate over the perils of sugar looks set to continue. Evi- dence that sugar is indeed the single greatest contributor to chronic disease appears to be growing. Nevertheless, there’s not yet a consensus on this point in the interna- tional scientifi c and medical communities, with many experts arguing that the key to improving global health outcomes remains tackling obesity through the simple equation of calories in versus calories out. And while most health commentators agree that over-consumption of sugar is an issue, there appears to be just as much confl ict about how to tackle the problem. What is certain is that these questions are


not going to go away and if the health and wellness industry wants to be taken seriously as a player in the modern health paradigm, it needs to be at the debating table. As Stalker says: “We can only become a priority sector by talking in the same language as the medi- cal community and that includes becoming more knowledgeable about nutrition.” ●


Rhianon Howells is the consulting editor of Spa Business magazine Email: rhowells@spabusiness.com


Spa Business 1 2014 ©Cybertrek 2014


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