Calls to limit sugar in Aust soft drinks

Australian doctors want soft drink manufacturers to voluntarily limit the amount of sugar they put in drinks.

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The head of the professional body representing GPs says it’s time to acknowledge the existing federal government will never introduce a sugar tax so other practical ways of tackling obesity should be considered.

With a “damning” seven out of 10 Australian adults estimated to be either overweight or obese by 2025, Dr Bastian Seidel says its time for common sense solutions to the obesity epidemic.

“The issue of obesity and Australians being overweight doesn’t go away so we keep talking and talking about it and we actually don’t take any action,” said Dr Seidel, the head of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

Having reached a “roadblock” on a sugar tax, Dr Seidel conceded for many medical professionals it probably “doesn’t make any sense” to keep arguing for it.

“It doesn’t seem like a sugar tax is not going to happen with he current government being in place,” Dr Seidel said.

“We need to have a look at what other countries are doing to achieve the same result,” he said.

The head of the RACGP has urged Australia’s policy makers to look to Singapore’s recent soft drinks deal as an example.

In August, seven drinks manufacturers, including Coca Cola, Pepsi Co and Nestle, agreed with the Singaporean government to a 12 per cent cap on sugar by 2020.The deal was struck as a way of curbing the incidence of diabetes.

“If you can do this in Singapore why can’t you do this in Australia. It’s in the industry interest, it’s in the politicians interest and it certainly would be in the interests of medical organisation such as the RACGP,” Dr Seidel told AAP.

“We should be open minded, we should be seeking dialogue with the big soda companies and make it work. It would be a common sense approach in the right direction and everybody wins” he said.

Australian GPs identify obesity as one of the detrimental health issues of the future.

The RACGP’s General Practice: Health of the Nation 2017 report found GPs identified obesity and complications from obesity as one of the most significant health problems Australia faces today and will continue to face in coming years as the incidence of obesity continues to rise.

At present two in three Australian adults and one in four school aged children are overweight or obese.

Based on the current trends, by 2025 70 per cent of Australians will be impacted by obesity, placing significant implications on society.

Dr Seidel says all Australians should speak to their GP about weight management.

“Early intervention by a GP plays a key role in an attempt to change the weight gain trajectory that patients with obesity often find themselves on,” Dr Seidel said.

The RACGP inaugural Walk Against Obesity will be held in Melbourne on Sunday to raise awareness of the issues associated with obesity ahead of World Obesity Day on Wednesday.