Dental Tribune International

Interview: “SugarByHalf’s mission is for people to live better and healthier lives”

By Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International
October 29, 2020

In recent years, numerous studies have established conclusively that there is a link between oral health and systemic disease. More than 50% of Australian children have experienced dental caries by 6 years of age, and at least 1.2 million Australians have diabetes; therefore, the benefit of education in this area is clear. That is where SugarByHalf comes in, according to the charity’s CEO, Tania Sincock. She recently spoke with Dental Tribune International about SugarByHalf’s goals and discussed her own experiences with reducing her sugar intake.

Ms Sincock, how was SugarByHalf established?
SugarByHalf was launched in 2016 in response to the many confusing messages about diet and nutrition and owing to the need to simplify things. People may argue over which diet is optimal, but the one thing everyone agrees on is the need for reducing sugar consumption. We promote swapping sugary foods and drinks for fresh food and water wherever possible. We also support and promote actions that help to make environments and communities healthier places.

SugarByHalf is a health promotion charity, which means that we rely on donations and the generosity of people and organisations that care about making a difference to the health of future generations.

What is the mission of SugarByHalf, and how is it going about achieving this?
SugarByHalf’s mission is for people to live better and healthier lives through the reduction of sugar-related diseases. Our education programme was launched in 2019, and we currently have community engagement pilot projects underway in order to promote healthier workplaces and sporting clubs. SugarByHalf has also designed a national campaign to raise awareness and to mobilise people power to support government actions that promote healthier communities. This is a major focus for fundraising at the moment.

Can you tell us about your own journey in cutting back on sugar? What changes have you noticed?
My awareness about added sugar began when my son, who was 2 years old at the time, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. When I started paying close attention to food labels in order to help manage his carbohydrate intake, I soon became astonished at how much hidden sugar could be found in the food that our family thought was healthy. We cut out the highly processed foods and moved on to eating real, homemade food together with some minimally processed foods. I used to be at the mercy of sugar cravings and always had to carry snacks around with me, but cutting back on sugar has freed me from this. It’s quite liberating—I’m much more in control over what I eat. As a bonus, I have lost a few kilos and have more energy, and my mental clarity has improved too!

SugarByHalf has lessons that are aimed at children between 0 and 4 years of age. How important is it to educate young children about the importance of nutrition and oral health?
As you’d be aware, there is a direct link between sugary drink consumption and obesity, dental cavities and Type 2 diabetes. In Australia, half of all 12-year-olds have caries in their permanent teeth, and more than half of all 6-year-olds have caries in their primary teeth. Our team identified early on that the school years are an important time for engaging children in the establishment of healthy habits—we know that, in addition to causing caries, a poor diet puts children behind their peers by having a detrimental impact on brain development, sleep and learning ability.

SugarByHalf’s education programme offers teachers free downloadable lesson plans that embed awareness of added sugar in subjects such as English, maths and science. So, for example, we have lessons in which students learn about maths through exploring nutrition information panels on packaged foods and English lessons that teach students how to critically consider advertising messages.

The Australian Dental Association has partnered with us on eight lessons to date, and we are currently working together on a suite of lessons for the early learning years which we plan to release in time for World Oral Health Day 2021.

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