Nutritionists start 60-day zero sugar challenge to curb adverse effects of sugary foods

Kampala, (UG): Nutritionists in Uganda organized under the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre have kicked off the 60-day zero sugar challenge in combined efforts to curb the adverse effects related to continued high consumption of sugary foods, processed diets and refined beverages.

The challenge which ends on the sixtieth day of March 2nd, 2024 kicked off on Tuesday, January 2nd, according to Kamara Daniel, a lead clinical nutritionist at the Centre. He says the challenge is aimed at fostering a positive impact through behavioural change, social change, dietary behaviours and general food choice 

Kamara notes that Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74% of all deaths globally, most of which are attributed to sugar-related complications.

“Each year, 17 million people die from an NCD before age 70; 86% of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Of all NCD deaths, 77% are in low- and middle-income countries,” Kamara explains.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.3 million), chronic respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes (2.0 million including kidney disease deaths caused by diabetes).

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Worldwide, non-communicable diseases affect and they are the leading causes of early and premature death worldwide and in Uganda.

Kamara says the use of highly processed, refined and sugar-processed foods is closely associated with the risk of developing non-communicable diseases.

Food choices stand-alone to affect and determine the early ageing, development of cancers and other related diseases that are so common these days, more so including the use of fast, street and junkie diets widely distributed.

“The purpose of the challenge is to instil a positive impact in the healthy lifestyle, proper meal portioning, portion control and moderation where need be,” he says.

Kamara adds that; “people need to also be reminded of the proper use of meals, not by availability only, but eat on the demand and the body’s requirements.”

According to the nutritionist, the effect of food adverts especially fast foods, and sugary beverages cannot be ignored, giving out sugar beverages as an additive after every meal in eating houses and other means like children to publicize foods on adverts has increased the usage of these refined foods and has contributed an effect on the high consumption and has reversed the dietary choices and behaviours.

He therefore emphasises that this challenge will foster the behaviours through social, and economic settings and eliminate the high consumption, rather be guided on the better practises and the use of meal swapps to counteract the use of sugar products daily.

Some of the highlighted meal swaps meals include;

  • Use of honey instead of processed sugar
  • Making juice rich in fibre other than buying already-made juice with sugar
  • Replacing the snacks of fast foods like cakes and replacing them with popcorn, fruit salads etc
  • Avoid going to shop hungry; this attracts interrupted shopping by eating fast foods as you go around shopping.

“Don’t wait for food cravings rather eat whole foods, often. Food cravings indicate a deficiency that needs a nutrition intervention and also triggers the taking of refined products.”

In this challenge the nutritionist stresses the need to eat meals timely and ensure the body is not deprived of nutrients rather it has enough to use not to store. All natural foods are allowed, and organic and whole foods are highly encouraged to be consumed.

“At the end of this 60-day Zero Sugar challenge, we expect all persons involved in this challenge to report changed dietary patterns, meal planning and portion control, most importantly they will report weight reduction since sugar is a big contributor to weight gain.”

Kamara notes that the challenge will be so exciting to ensure the body’s excess body fat and calories are fully used and utilised by the body.

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“We encourage people to pay attention to the nutrients in the labelled foods to know what they are eating. We provide daily foods to take and get rid of the sugars through meal scheduling and reminding people what to take, through social media platforms,” he emphasizes.

Nutrition is a backbone of health, being aware of what is being eaten is important to nourish the body not rather to cause harm.

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