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Fitness & Health

14th Nov 2018

Why banning freakshakes fails to tackle the real causes of obesity

Pressure groups have called for a ban on freakshakes, but is this wise? Sugar consumption has been on the decline for years, yet obesity is still rising

Alex Roberts

Pressure groups have called on the UK government to ban freakshakes, but is this really a wise move?

Numerous media outlets including the BBC reported how freakshakes were coming under fire from organisations such as ‘Action on Sugar’.

Freakshakes are essentially mega-milkshakes with doughnuts, cookies, sweets, chocolate and other foods added to the usual combination of milk and ice cream. These giant-sized milkshakes often contain up to 39 teaspoons of sugar, which has prompted some pressure groups to call for a ban.

For this reason, their motives seem understandable at first – but research shows sugar consumption has actually declined in recent years.

Sugar intake is declining

A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 16% decrease in the amount of sugar in food and drink since 1980. Between 1995 and 2011, added sugar intake fell by 10% in men – and 20% in women.

Despite the decrease in sugar intake, obesity is still on the rise – but why?

It can only be that people are consuming too much food in general, vastly exceeding their daily calorie needs. That is likely to be most responsible for the increase in obesity – not so much the amount of sugar alone.

If you’re looking to get a handle on your health and fitness, sugar is not quite the evil it’s made out to be.

Calories are most crucial

Weight loss and fat burning are more a matter of being in a calorie deficit than anything else. When you burn off more calories than you take in from food and drink, you will lose weight.

The same result will occur if you simply consume fewer calories than you need to sustain your body weight.

Consuming simple sugars will cause a sharp rise in blood sugar. This isn’t a good idea if you aren’t using that energy for training soon after, so there’s no doubt that you should limit your sugar intake.

However, it’s not the main priority when it comes to improving your health, as research shows.

Sugar is still an important part of your diet, especially where physical activity is concerned. Your body relies on muscle glycogen for fuel, so cutting down on your carb intake will negatively affect how hard you can hit the gym.

Is a ban on freakshakes helpful?

If you’re looking to hit a PB on the bench press, then stocking up on a sizeable portion of carbs pre-workout can help you achieve such a goal.

There’s also an argument to be made that banning or raising the tax on freakshakes wouldn’t actually help many people. The solution to the obesity epidemic is arguably about making healthy, nutritious food more widely available.

You could argue Jamie Oliver’s successes owe not to outlawing turkey twizzlers, but from improving the availability of fruit and vegetables in school canteens.

In many places, replacing junk food in general from vending machines with lower-calorie options is more likely to lead to weight loss.

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