23 August 2014

Tanzania: Medics Worried Over Increased Sugary Items to Children

MEDICAL experts in the country have expressed concern over increased exposure of sugary substances to children, a situation they say needs to be addressed.

Experts of different disciplines agree on one thing; that there is need for parents to change their rewarding ways and a study to determine what amounts and frequency of soft drinks, ice cream, sweets children are consuming must be conducted.

A lecturer at the Department of Restorative Dentistry, School of Dentistry at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dr Lorna Carneiro exclusively told the Daily News on Saturday that as an oral health expert, current trends are extremely worrying.

"The fact that a study has yet to be conducted to know the amounts and frequency of sugary item takings is worrying. However, what is of more concern is the sale of homemade ice lollies to children," she noted.

Dr Carneiro said that homemade items like ice lollies are especially dangerous because the makers have no mixing skills and for oral health, the improper mix of sugar and acidic products like baobab fruits (ubuyu), tamarind (ukwaju) and Saba comorensis (mabungo) can have adverse effects.

A random survey conducted by this newspaper in various parts of Dar es Salaam found that items that are not standardised are sold widely in vicinities of schools and standardised products like ice cream of different flavours and types are also available. "It is often debated on whether there is such a thing as healthy and nutritious ice cream.

For people who are diabetic, there is unsweetened ice cream, I am not sure if studies have been done to recommend the items for children but this is something that should be looked into," she said.

In March this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) proposed a new set of guidelines that reduced the recommended daily sugar intake to levels well below what the average American consumes.

These prospective new guidelines maintained the previous recommendation that no more than 10 per cent of one's daily caloric intake should come from sugars.

However the WHO's new guidelines also introduced a secondary caveat that advises further reducing sugar consumption to less than 5 per cent of the daily caloric intake for "additional benefits".

An oral health specialist, Dr Msafiri Kabulwa responding to the question on whether ice cream can be nutritious, said that the fact that it is composed of sugar and flavour cannot make it have any nutritional value.

Dr Kabulwa concurred with the view that a study needs to be conducted, particularly on giving children diabetic ice cream, adding that ice cream contains non calorific sugar and unlike the sugar that many have in their homes.

"There are implications that may arise from foods that are prepared by people who are not professionals including issues like transmission of water borne like typhoid, amoeba and cholera," he cited.

The oral specialist added that some of the additives may look attractive especially from the colours used, which are sometimes rumoured to be the same used in the floor mat business, and depending on quantity consumed and if are cancerous could cause cancer lesions in the future.

The International Reproductive and Child Health Clinic Director, Dr Ali Mzige told this newspaper that ice cream should not be termed as nutritious but rather one of the reasons for unnecessary weight gain if taken as dessert.

"Excessive sugar has 140 disadvantages to our general health. Children end up with poor oral hygiene when subjected to sweets and other stuff being put in their mouths before going to bed instead of brushing their teeth, come morning without proper dental care, the damage is done," he said.

Dr Mzige said that it is the children especially and in particular some youths and adults who have a craving for it.


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