Istanbul, Turkey | Xinhua | Turkey will gradually reduce sugar amounts in foods and beverages to fight the climbing rate of obesity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has altered people’s eating habits.
Last week, the Turkish Health Ministry released the Sugar Reduction Guide in order to gradually reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate, candies, wafers, sweet sauces, breakfast cereals, and nonalcoholic drinks by at least 10 percent by 2025.
The guide includes recommendations to reduce the amount of sugar in packaged products and its use in restaurants and cafes.
The ministry and industry representatives had signed a protocol last year on the issue as Turkey has one of the highest obesity rates among countries in the Europe region defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Fatih Kara, head of the Health Ministry General Directorate of Public Health, recently told an online meeting of sector representatives that sugar reduction would positively impact obesity.
“Nutrition plays a role both in obesity and other noninfectious diseases,” he said, noting that excessive consumption of sugar and sugar-added food may cause cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and other health problems.
The WHO recommends a limit of 5 to 10 teaspoons of sugars per day and calls for reducing free sugar intake to 50 grams per day.
Meanwhile, lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic in the last two years have pushed people to a sedentary lifestyle and seriously altered their food and sugar intake.
Huseyin Sergin, 28, is an IT specialist from the capital city Ankara. He had a gastric bypass operation a year ago when his weight ballooned to 130 kg due to overeating.
“I found myself working continuously from home and eating during the pandemic,” he told Xinhua at a sports salon where he now regularly works out with the help of a personal trainer.
Sergin said that he used to consume over 1.5 liters of soda drinks with a high sugar ratio and unhealthy snacks each day. He welcomed the decision to reduce sugar amounts in candies and other treats.
“That is all finished for me. Now my calory intake is very regulated, and I can only eat in small portions as my stomach is now the size of a grapefruit,” said Sergin, who has lost over 35 kg since the operation. “Being overweight was ruining my life. Now I can enjoy the outdoors like everyone else.”
His trainer Mehmet Can stressed that more and more people became overweight because of “emotional eating” stress and a poor diet.
“The situation has gone worse with the pandemic. People stayed at home working remotely, which meant less mobility and physical activity, and weights went up and up,” he noted. “In that sense, the new guide will help people a lot.”