Sugar is one of the simple forms of carbohydrates that contain
monosaccharides, such as fructose and galactose, and
disaccharides, such as sucrose and lactose.
Simple carbohydrates are also in candy, soda, and syrups.
However, these foods and beverages are made with processed and
refined sugars and do not have vitamins, minerals, or fiber. They
are called “empty calories” and can lead to weight gain.
Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to
foods and beverages by the manufacturer, culinarian, or
consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit
juices, and fruit juice concentrates.
Food and beverages high in sugar are perceived to be among the
leading risk factors for nutrition-related non-communicable
diseases. The thriving presence of ultra-processed food producers
has resulted in reversals to diets that are correlated with noncommunicable diseases and which incorporate sugar-sweetened
Diets high in sugar are linked to obesity and overweight, both of
which increase the probability and chance of diabetes. There is a
powerful link below obesity and mortality. In the Region, both
men and women suffer from being overweight and obese. It is
estimated that over 50% of women are overweight. Roughly half of
overweight women are obese. In the case of children and
adolescents the picture is even more alarming.
overindulgence in high calorie food and indoor leisure activities,
such as watching television, surfing the net and playing games, all
contribute to childhood obesity.
Regionally, overweight and obesity in children under-five years of
age has increased from 5.8% to 8.1% between 1990 and 2012,
which is above the global average of 6.7%. Overweight and obesity
in adolescents (13–15 years) are highly prevalent.
Benefits of reducing sugar intake:
Everyone has a role in facilitating a deduction in sugar consumption – governments, the
private sector and civil society.
Reducing sugar intake reduces particularly the risk of developing overweight and obesity,
and in turn in developing diabetes. It also has a substantial effect on reducing dental
caries. The proof for the health benefits of population-wide reduction in sugar intake is
Governments can reduce population sugar consumption!
• To ameliorate population sugar intake/consumption, government can enforce the
• Reformulate sugar-rich foods and drinks to lower sugar intakes.
• Set criteria for all food and drink served by government-sponsored institutions.
• Restrict advertising of sugar-enriched products, particularly drinks.
• Impose constraints on marketing, advertising and sponsorship of all sugar-enriched
foods and drinks across all media platforms.
• Use nutritional profiling to ascertain precise definitions of foods and drinks high in
• Eradicate sugar subsidies provided by national governments and instruct progressive
taxes initially on sugary drinks and then on all foods and drinks with added sugar.
• Enhance accredited training on diet and health for individuals with opportunities to
influence population food choices.
Consumption of Sugary Drinks Is a Major Cause of Obesity
Excessive sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and its related diseases,
increasing the risks of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney damage, heart
disease, and some cancers. The guidelines of the World Health Organization and the
World Cancer Research Fund state that added sugars should comprise no more than 10%
of an individual’s total calorie intake and preferably less than 5%.
Sugary drinks often have no nutritional value and are exceptionally harmful to the body.
The liver absorbs sugar in liquid form more rapidly than in solid form and therefore
cannot efficiently process and release it.
The surplus is stored in the liver as fat or glycogen deposits. This can lead to fatty liver
disease and increased risks for diabetes and other NCDs. Consuming sugar in liquid form,
be it from 100% fruit juice or from sugar-sweetened beverages, does not decrease food
Sugary drinks contribute to undernutrition when they replace foods or drinks with greater
micronutrient densities. For example, in some Asian, African, American, and Caribbean
countries numerous infants consume sugary drinks as weaning foods, which can
exacerbate undernutrition and stunting. Infants with stunting confront a vastly greater
risk of high visceral fatness, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
It is hard to counteract sugary beverage consumption with physical activity. For instance,
to offset consumption of an 8-ounce (oz) (237-milliliter) regular soft drink requires 16
minutes of running or 1.0 mile of walking. To offset the normal intake of 20 oz (591 ml)
requires 40 minutes of running or 2.5 miles of walking.
As per WHO, 58 percent of total deaths were rendered by non-communicable diseases
(NCDs). In other terms, approximately 2,200 people die each day due to these fatal
diseases in Pakistan.
According to the Steps Survey of Pakistan (2014-15), more than four out of 10 adults (41.3
percent) were obese or overweight, while 37 percent had hypertension.
Every 4th adult (26 percent) was suffering from type two diabetes as per second National
Diabetes Survey of Pakistan conducted in 2016-17.
According to the International Diabetes Federation 2019, Pakistan has the fourth highest
burden of type two diabetes worldwide with more than 19 million cases.
Pakistan National Heart Association on this situation:
Solution: Tax on Sugary Drinks
Sugary drink taxes are among the promising decisions for governments, because such
taxes decrease sugary drink consumption while increasing earnings to fund other
government services and initiatives.
Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation exemplifies an opportunity to prevent noncommunicable diseases but it comes with challenges.
PANAH asks government to introduce 20% tax on sugar sweetened beverages, it is a good
action towards stopping disease like obesity and related NCDs like heart disease,
hypertension, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, some types of cancers, and tooth decay.
Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015
Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015
Summary report on the technical consultation on reducing sugar intake in the Eastern
Mediterranean Region. Cairo: WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean; 2015
Healthy diet, Fact sheet N°394. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015
Abdulrahman O Musaiger. Overweight and obesity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region:
prevalence and possible causes. 2011. Doi:10.1155/2011/407237. J Obes. 2011.407237.
Sugar supply (kcal/capita/d) in Northen Africa and Western Asia between 1970 and 2010. In
FAO/Statistics Division. Italy; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2013
WHO Global Health Observatory data repository. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015