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Milkshakes, prosecco and the eye health of the nation

Why the Government wants us to extract our sweet tooth

15 Aug 2019 by John White

It’s addictive, it can enhance flavour, and it is often my go-to when I feel my productivity levels dropping.

And yet, sugar is fast gaining a reputation as public health enemy number one.

It – or to be more specific, milkshakes – made the national headlines last month following the publication of a Green Paper that appeared in the dog days of the Theresa May government (and reportedly with little support from her health secretary, Matt Hancock). 

Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s makes the case for the importance of improving the nutritional content of food and drink, as part of a wider drive to “keep people living healthy, independent lives free from illness or disability.”

Pointing to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which it explains has helped to remove the equivalent of over 45,000 tonnes of sugar from retailers’ shelves, the paper notes that sugary milk drinks are yet to fall within this tax, but could be in its sights.

Prosecco did not get a mention, but based on data suggesting that a glass contains four grams of sugar, and the average Briton is consuming a whopping four glasses in a sitting, it could be next on the hit list.

Another statement in the Green Paper that caught the attention of AOP colleagues was the Government’s ambition to go ‘smoke-free’ in England by 2030.

This follows the AOP’s Stub it out campaign, which was led by members who told the AOP that they think not smoking is the number one thing people should do to protect their eyes.

AOP’s head of clinical and regulatory, Henry Leonard, explained: “It is positive to see the Government has a renewed focus on tackling smoking, and the goal of making cigarettes obsolete by 2030 is laudable, but this will need to be followed up with strong actions. As an optometrist, telling a patient they are losing their sight, particularly when it might have been preventable, is the most harrowing part of my job.”

National Eye Health Week is back next month, with the AOP playing its part to offer expert advice to the public. If you or your practice is planning to get involved, please do get in touch with us by email and share your initiative.

Image credit: Getty/bhofack2

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