Email sent and returned from Dr Simon Thornley and Dr Gerhard Sundborn from FIZZ

Hi Gerhard and Simon,

Thank you for getting back to me I really appreciate it. Would it be possible to ask you both a few questions? It would be lovely to get your perspective and opinions on a few matters.

– Gerhard what made you want to start up Fizz? What there are breaking point in your career that prompted this?
I’ll let Gerhard speak to this. I think, for me, it was seeing sugar and sugary drinks in a similar light to tobacco, with a sustained, focused advocacy group necessary to achieve a change in public attitude and policy so that sugary drinks can be eliminated from the Pacific and NZ, like we have similar plans for tobacco.

– What does Fizz hope to achieve?
Elimination of sugary drinks from NZ and the Pacific.

– What do you believe is the main cause of over consumption of sugar in New Zealand ?
For a long time we did not know the dangers of excess sugar intake. Now it is clear that sugar promotes unhealthy weight gain, rotten teeth, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There is some agreement now that sugar promotes an addiction, and that it is difficult to give up, when we have a high regular intake. Sugar is a deeply ingrained part of our culture, and food and beverage companies have promoted sugar and sugary drinks to the population as they are highly profitable.

– Do you think we are addicted to sugar?
Yes, I do. There are some scientific studies of sugar and carbohydrate addiction in humans. There is much experimental evidence in rats showing that they become addicted to high sugar diets. Personally, I felt that after I gave up sugar, I experienced withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, irritability, and head aches for the first three to four weeks of quitting. This pattern is similar to other addictions, such as giving up cigarettes.

– How do you believe we could break this habit if we are addicted?
Seek out sugar alternatives, such as stevia and other sweeteners that do not contain sugar. Diet drinks are a good replacement for sugary ones. Common sources of sugar such as breakfast cereal, biscuits, cordials, fruit drinks need to be addressed. Look for products with less than 5% sugar in the nutrition panel on the back of the item. These can help quench some of the withdrawal. It is also important to remove sugary food from your pantry and work place, since in addictions, behaviour is often automatic, and if sugary food or drink is available, it will be eaten.

– If there was one way to get people aware of this issue and be provided with the knowledge to change what would this be?
Taxing sugary drinks. This is a great tool, which has been  shown to be effective for tobacco. People are price sensitive, so pricing these products higher than those without sugar will, we believe, reduce sugar intake. Evidence from Mexico, which has recently introduced such a tax suggests that this is an effective strategy.

Thank you for your time,
Katrina Berry


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