San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sugar tax: Wallets and waistlines

From the print edition

Tax, that ever-popular government control, is being applied to sugar. At least that is a suggestion being made by U.S. health experts in the quest to control obesity rates. Meanwhile, some sensible people have pointed out that taxing less healthy dietary elements such as sugar, saturated fats and salt should be combined with subsidising healthier fruit and vegetables. That’s the way to go if people are to be enticed into actually improving their diets. 

Julie Godfrey

Julie Godfrey

Nearly everyone loves sweet things, some more than most, and lots of industries profit from this. Some by selling it, others by trying to wean you off it, and still others by attempting to cure you of the effects of overconsumption. While some people claim that there is no proof that sugar is the cause of disease, the increased consumption of all things sweet has paralleled an increase in obesity with the two trends usually being linked.

Yet sugar or at least glucose is a necessary component of the diet. The brain uses glucose as its fuel and is rather fussy about this. Let your glucose levels drop too far and the symptoms of irritability, intense hunger and a general inability to function soon appear. So sugar per se is not the problem. But too much sugar is. 

So that we can keep consuming, scientists are trying to figure out if certain forms of sugar are healthier than others, but they are not there yet. Evidence is still contradictory and inconclusive. So for the moment we should self-regulate our consumption, which is in line with my mantra of “Everything in Moderation.”

Firstly, understand how much sugar you consume. Every time you add sugar to a drink or food, put the equivalent amount in a cup as well. For bought items, check the nutritional information label and add the same amount of sugar to this “measuring” cup. You may be quite surprised to see just how much has accumulated at the end of the day. Extrapolate this to a week, a month, or a year and prepare to be shocked. Now you can gradually cut down on adding sugar to drinks and foods, albeit a half spoon at a time. Eat fresh food and prepare it yourself. This is one of those easy statements that can be difficult to implement, but have a go. 

One useful trick involves combining naturally sweet fruits like bananas and mangoes with more acidic ones in juices and smoothies. Another trick for cakes, biscuits and puddings, is to adapt recipes to use less sugar and experiment with dried fruits, apple puree and mashed bananas as sweeteners.

While these are still sugars, they at least come packaged with nutrients and fiber as well as energy. Avoid using artificial sweeteners, as while they may not contain the extra calories, neither do they help control a sweet tooth. And don’t add sugar to savoury foods.  

By cutting down gradually you should find that your palate changes and you no longer crave very sweet foods. Naturally your weight should start to normalize, you should feel more energized and hopefully be a step closer to optimal health. Good luck.n

Julie Godfrey BSc (Hons) is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and full member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT). See or email

News sources:

“Sugar Tax Needed Say U.S. Experts” – BBC News: 

“Fructose Being Blamed Unfairly For Obesity Epidemic?” – Science Daily:

“What Makes Fructose Fattening” – Science Daily: 

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