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'Many whanau are absolutely hooked' - Maori health group urges govt to step up on sugary drinks

A Maori Public Health organisation is urging the government to support communities to decrease sugary drink consumption, after a damning study from Waikato University showed New Zealand's high sugar levels in drinks. 

Hapai Te Hauora said in a statement today the government needs to "step up to protect commiunities". 

It comes after research from the University of Waikato that studied the sugar content of non-alcoholic beverages across NZ, the UK, Australia and Canada, with New Zealand landing a dismal last place health-wise in almost all categories researched.

"We compared the nutritional content, particularly focusing on the sugar content of beverages. The interesting find is that New Zealand basically has the highest sugar content across the majority of categories compared to other countries," researcher Dr Lynne Chepulis told 1 NEWS.  

Hapai Te Hauora campaign manager Kera Sherwood-O'Regan was not surprised by the findings.

The health issues related to high-sugar drink consumption spurred the organisation to conduct a 'Ditch the Fizz' month, where challengers forgo sugary drinks for the month of January.

"What we're seeing in our campaign is that many whanau are absolutely hooked on these drinks; suffering headaches and withdrawal symptoms while trying to give them up," Ms Kera said. 

"These drinks that can do so much harm are all around the place, in stores, on bill boards and shop fronts; represented as some kind of essential component of the kiwi summer."

"This really highlights the need for stronger regulation at the central government level, as well as community-based policies to support whanau who want to make positive choices for their health."

A 1 NEWS Facebook poll showed 416 respondents agreed that manufacturers should be taxed more for producing sugary drinks, compared to 104 who disagreed. 

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