War on Sugar

St. David’s B.N.S Declare War on Sugar

The boys of St. David’s BNS Artane under the guidance of Activ8 Camp’s director, are on a mission to show us all just how much added sugar is hidden in your food and the health benefits of removing it from our diet.

The primary school students of St. David’s under the guidance of their teacher and Activ8 Camp Director Shaun Conaghan, have been researching the harmful side effects sugar is having on our health, how much is hidden in everyday foods like yogurts, cereals, junk foods and sauces and just how much we as a nation are exceeding the safe amount. RTÈ NEWS was so impressed that they did a special feature piece on the boy’s research and the students also got the chance to showcase their findings at the recent BT Young Scientist exhibition.

The safe amount of added sugar to consume per day is 4 spoons for a child and 6 spoons for an adult. However the Irish average is 24 spoons per day which is 6 times the safe amount for children. St. David’s BNS students conducted a survey of pupils, staff and parents in the school and found that many Irish children (and adults) are consuming much more than 24 spoons a day.

Research shows that consuming more than just 10 spoons of hidden or added sugar in our food greatly increases the likelihood of developing obesity, type two diabetes, heart disease, depression, various form of cancer and many other deadly diseases.

It’s time to act:

The school which is the former primary school of Dublin Star, Stephen Cluxton and Ireland international Jeff Hendrick, decided to do some of their own research. Shaun Conaghan’s 5th and 6th class boys decided to cut out added sugar and replace it with natural sugars such as fresh fruit and nuts. They kept a diary and recorded what effect it had on their body. After just 3 weeks, all the boys in the class (aged between 10-12 years of age) recorded experiencing 3 or more of the following benefits:

  • Having improved concentration in class
  • Feeling happier
  • Having more energy
  • Feeling more alert
  • And enjoyed a better quality of sleep at night/ feeling more refreshed in the morning

As well as cutting out added sugar, they also tried to drink more water, get more active every day and eat single ingredient natural products such as oats, milk, wholegrains, fresh fruit and vegetables.

“It was hard at first (giving up added sugar), because we found like most Irish people we were addicted to sugar as there is so much of it hidden in the foods we eat every day. But with the help of our teacher we never gave up and now look and feel so much better and healthier,” said Alex from 6th class.

Read the label:

The boys learned how to read food labels. They quickly discovered that food companies make it as misleading and difficult as they can for us to see what exactly is in our foods.

“They (the food companies) don’t want us to know how much is in our foods because it makes them so much money, they try to make it as hard as possible for us. I always thought that yogurts and breakfast cereals were healthy for us but the companies advertise the products as healthy, but really they’re loaded with sugar,” stated Nathan from 6th class.

The boys discovered that every 4g in a product is the same as one teaspoon. To make this clear to the rest of the school they measured out how much sugar was hidden in everyday foods, drinks, snacks and sauces and displayed the actual amount of sugar beside the product, much to the horror of everyone who saw it.

Some of the more shocking items that had high sugar content were:

  • Bottle of tomato ketchup: 40 spoons of added sugar
  • Low fat strawberry yogurt: 5 spoons
  • Natural/ Haribo Jelly Sweets: 21 Spoons
  • Sweet & Sour Sauce Jar: 20 spoons
  • Ben & Jerrys 500ml ice cream tub: 30 Spoons

“The most important thing we learned was just how much sugar is hidden in foods that are supposed to be healthy for us by learning how to read the labels. I’m only been eating single ingredient foods recently as much as possible and feel so much better,” said Adam, a 6th class student.

“My Son, Jack, was giving out to us so much when we brought home products that were high in sugar to the extent we’ve actually stopped buying these items. And when I seen the class’ sugar display in the school actually showing the amounts in each product, I can see why, it really shocked me,” said Maria Woods, a parent in the school.

“It’s been a great education for the boys and one that’ll stick with them for life and have huge benefits to their overall health. Mr. Conaghan has a great influence on the boys and they have really taken to this new healthy lifestyle” she continued.

Another parent in the class also spoke of the rapid benefits she seen in the initiative, “My son Ross is now constantly preaching to us about cutting out processed foods and changing to real foods as he likes to call them. The whole family have bought into it due to his persistence. My husband and I are already beginning to see the benefits in their sleep patterns, mood and energy levels” remarks Noelle Carolan.

Sum Wai Tsang, from the class even designed an added sugar intake scale to help people become more aware of the risk of over consuming sugar. He calls it the Sum Sum Scale. “I just wanted to make people aware of just how serious this is for their health and give them a scale that will help them see the risk they are taking with every spoon,” said the mature 11 year old boy.

“We need to intervene at primary level”

Shaun Conaghan of Activ8 Camp, an Irish company that aims to get children more active and eating healthy, spoke of the need for the Irish government to introduce greater nutrition and healthy lifestyle education for children at primary level. “The World Health Organisation is predicting that Ireland is on track to become the world’s most overweight nation by 2030, this is extremely worrying. I feel this is largely down to the amount of high sugar foods in our diets and we need to become proactive to combat this,” stated Conaghan.

“Our supermarkets are flooded with processed sugary foods. 80% of all products in Irish supermarkets contain added sugars and yet we are surprised when we hear of our rising obesity and type 2 diabetes rates. This generation don’t stand a chance if we don’t act effectively now” he warned.

“It’s something I’m very passionate about. We need to educate and intervene now at a young age to show young people the benefits of an active lifestyle and choosing wholesome nutritious foods. Like the boys from my class, once they realise how energetic, charged and fresh they can feel eating real wholesome foods, they’ll never look back!!” he continued.

For more information on how you can get your children more active and eating healthy see www.activ8camp.com or contact shaun@activ8camp.com