India Reduces Its Individual Sugar Consumption by 2 kgs Per Year
According to statistics from the National Federation of Sugar Factories Ltd (NFSFL), India has seen a drop of at least 2 kg in individual sugar consumption per year; of the 32 million tonnes we produced this year, we consumed only about 25 million tonnes.
In a country where 3.7% of the population suffers from type-2 diabetes, this is good news. High levels of sugar intake can lead to accumulation of body fat, which can contribute to insulin resistance, and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious and lifelong condition characterized by high blood sugar levels; it can be caused by unhealthy eating habits, such as the consumption of too much processed food, especially processed sugar. People with type 2 diabetes don’t make enough of or respond typically to insulin, the hormone essential to breaking down sugars into energy and thus to maintaining blood sugar levels.
In 2017, India recorded 72 million cases of diabetes, and by 2025, the figure is expected to nearly double, which makes it the country’s fastest growing disease. Some reports also state that currently, India has the highest number of diabetes patients in the world.
But the dip in sugar consumption might be offset by other food choices. A 2014 report titled “Sugar Intake, Obesity, and Diabetes in India” showed that while intake of traditional sugars had declined, there was actually an increase in the consumption of sugar in the form of sweetened beverages, especially among children.
“[Sugar-sweetened beverage] sales in India have increased by 13% per year since 1998, exceeding 11 liters per capital per year,” said the report. The authors also found that children, aged 9-18 years in four cities of India, were consuming approximately 1.8 cans of cola per week — an amount that could result in nearly 1.3 kg of weight gain per child per year.
Childhood obesity is closely associated with increased risk of diabetes and is also a rising problem in India. Another recent report estimates that 2.9 to 14.3% children have been obese, and 1.5 to 24% have been overweight in the past decade. (The wide, uncertain range is due to cobbling statistics from many different small-scale studies; no large-scale analysis has been done on the issue.)
Although sugar consumption is decreasing, it’s not decreased enough, per the World Health Organization, which recommends sugar intake levels for Indians should be less than 10% of an individual’s total calories per day, which includes all added sugars and sugars present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.
The effects of cutting out sugar in this way could be vast for India. On an individual level, studies show a remarkably rapid improvement in health, sometimes as quickly as in just 10 days. And on a national level, lowering sugar intake (and thus, ideally, diabetes and obesity rates) has the potential to free up as much as 1.5 lakh crore per year, which is the actual amount India spends on treating the disease — 4.7 times the Centre’s allocation of Rs. 32,000 crore on health.