Crackdown on sugary drinks a 'no brainer' - Nigel Latta

Nigel Latta is throwing his support behind a health board's new sugary drinks policy following his documentary into the impact sugar-laden diets are having on the health of New Zealanders.

Nigel Latta says it is hard to get the message through about sugary drinks. Source: Breakfast

Mr Latta says Northland DHB's policy, which was approved in August and will see all sugar-sweetened beverages removed from its hospital cafeterias and vending machines as of October, is "a no brainer".

"Those sugary drinks add nothing. So we shouldn't be selling them in hospitals where we are treating people for Type 2 diabetes and we shouldn't have them in school canteens either," the clinical psychologist told TV ONE's Breakfast.

Northland DHB's diabetes dietician Virjean Primeau says the move has been in the works for quite a long time, and she believes it is a positive first step in tackling Type 2 diabetes prevention, as well as obesity.

"It's quite shocking when you consider that by the year 2026 diabetes will have imploded to 72% of our population in Northland and it's epidemic so we do need to be starting to move in the direction of health and wellbeing of our people," she told TV ONE's Breakfast.

She said the DHB should be setting the example, and she says they have had a positive response to their new policy.

Nigel Latta: Is Sugar the New Fat? screened on TV ONE last night, and in the documentary Mr Latta was shocked to discover how much sugar is in food, that marketing managers are often the ones screening how much sugar is in their products, and the burden it has on the health system.

He said the average Kiwi adult consumes around 50kg of sugar a year, that's around 32 teaspoons a day, which is well above the World Health Organisation's recommendation of nine teaspoons of sugar for men, six for women and four for children.

Mr Latta went to Middlemore Hospital and met with Clinical head of endocrinology and diabetes, Dr Brandon Orr-Walker, who told him that "there is a very clear link between sugar consumption, and carbohydrate consumption and diabetes at a population level".

One patient Mr Latta met with at Middlemore Hospital was Marilyn who told him her "love of sugar" had left her with a range of health issues. She has had diabetes for 21 years and has dialysis three days a week for four hours at a time.

Dr Orr-Walker said reducing the consumption of sugary drinks is the easiest way to remove sugar from diets.

Mr Latta asked Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich whether a sugar tax should be introduced, and she said it hasn't worked anywhere else in the world and that the real issue is that people are eating too much and are not getting enough exercise.