As health officials continue to lament the prevalence of lifestyle diseases in Antigua and Barbuda, the Ministry of Health – with the support of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – is launching an anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) campaign under the slogan, “Less Sugar, Longer Life.”
According to the results of the 2009 Global School-based Health Survey, 59% of Antigua and Barbuda’s students, between the ages of 13 and 15, drank carbonated soft drinks one or more times per day during the last 30 days.
Further, a focus group conducted in 2021 among young children found that 70% consumed SSBs more often than water, the Ministry says.
According to the Ministry, the campaign seeks to increase public awareness of the dangers associated with excessive consumption of such drinks, and to promote the consumption of water and other alternatives.
It will use traditional and social-media platforms to reach the public and target schools, churches, workplaces, and civil society through education sessions, food demos and supermarket tours, the Ministry says.
Health officials say that reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is a vital step in addressing obesity and other non-communicable diseases. Consuming a diet high in excessive amounts of added sugar is harmful to health, they say.
“For many populations, sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks [and] juice drinks with added sugar, are one of the main contributors to added sugar in the diet,” a statement from the Ministry of Health says.
It notes that just one serving of such a beverage can meet or surpass the recommended daily limit for intake of added sugar.
The consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is directly linked to overweight and obesity; Type 2 diabetes; and poor dental health – conditions that can impact persons at all stages of life and affect the health and productivity of the Nation for years to come.
“Although SSBs is the focus of this campaign, the community is still urged to adopt healthier lifestyles to include a balanced diet, increased physical activity, better-quality sleep patterns and improved mental wellness,” the Ministry advises.