In recent years, there has been growing concern over the consumption of Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and their potential impact on public health. Now, journalists in Ghana are taking action, pledging to raise awareness of the health risks associated with these products.
The move follows a training session organised by the Advocacy for Health Project (A4H) in Accra, in which journalists were educated on the negative effects of SSBs on nutritional wellbeing and health. The A4H is a coalition of health experts who have called on the Ghanaian government to consider imposing a tax on SSBs in order to make them more expensive and deter people from consuming them.
While most people associate SSBs with soda, any drink with added sugar falls into this category, including sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices. These drinks are often popular due to their sweet taste, but they can have serious negative impacts on health.
According to Professor Reginald Annan of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Chair of the GAND Nutrition Group, the main issue with SSBs is that they contain empty calories. A single can of soda contains about 9 cubes of sugar and 150 calories, providing no nutritional value. Just one can of soda a day can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity. In fact, it would take a 30-minute walk to burn off the calories from one can of soda.
Moreover, SSBs have been linked to type 2 diabetes. The sugar in these drinks can raise blood sugar levels, which can damage the pancreas and lead to insulin resistance. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. SSBs have also been associated with dental caries, obesity, stroke, and other non-communicable diseases.
These products are readily available in Ghana, from shops to schools, churches to markets, and even hospitals. The consequences of regular consumption can be severe, including an increased risk of dental cavities, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity in both children and adults, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
As a result, health experts are calling for urgent action. Professor Kingley Pereko, President of the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND), warned that high blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, and high body mass index are among the top 10 risk factors that drive the most death and disability combined. Over one-third of all adult deaths in Ghana are due to NCDs, and the cost of treating diabetes-related illnesses is enormous.
Given the economic implications of this situation, Prof. Pereko urged the public to adopt healthier diets and adhere to health safety protocols. He also called on public health nutritionists to intensify the campaign to protect the health of citizens. The A4H project, a collaboration between academia and civil society organisations in Ghana, aims to create a favourable food environment and encourage stakeholder buy-in for food-related fiscal policies, including SSB tax.
The consumption of SSBs in Ghana poses a significant public health risk that cannot be ignored. By taking action to raise awareness of the health risks associated with these products, journalists in Ghana are playing an important role in tackling this issue.
Related article: https://businessweekghana.com/media-trained-to-educate-public-on-dangers-of-sugar-sweetened-beverages/