Sugar consumption has a huge effect on Canada’s healthcare system. High sugar consumption is known to be a factor in causing conditions like obesity, cardiovascular conditions and other chronic problems. It also causes oral health problems. When putting these together, recent research has found that excessive sugar consumption costs the healthcare system of Canada up to $5billion per year.
Sugar is known to be one of the most common causes of many chronic conditions. For example, these conditions include obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Moreover, sugar also causes many oral health problems. For instance, this includes tooth decay, cavities and gum disease. Therefore, sugar causes multiple health issues.
Now, researchers have looked into the impact that excessive sugar consumption has on Canada’s healthcare system. They found that excessive sugar consumption costs the healthcare system up to $5billion per year.
As a result, the researchers have made several recommendations. They hope that these recommendations can lessen the burden that sugar causes the healthcare system of Canada.
The impact of sugar
Sugar has an impact on both physical and oral health. “Free sugars” – food and drink made with added sugar – have the worst impact.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that less than 10% of our overall energy intake should be free sugars . While this may sound easy to achieve, in practice, many people have over this amount.
Moreover, sugar also impacts our oral health. The process of cavities forming begins with sugar interacting with dental plaque, leading to tooth decay . Sugar is the main cause of oral health problems .
The research was conducted by the University of Alberta. Their findings were published in The Canadian Journal of Public Health . As mentioned above, the researchers sought to estimate the impact that sugar consumption has on Canada’s healthcare system .
The researchers gathered their data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey on nutrition . This survey asked Canadians about their eating and nutritional habits. Worryingly, the researchers found that 2 out of 3 Canadians consumed more sugar than recommended .
The researchers then specifically used 16 diet-related chronic conditions. For instance, these included diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease among other conditions . The researchers then took into account healthcare spend on these 16 conditions.
They found that treatment and management of these 16 chronic conditions accounted for 67% of total healthcare costs in Canada . This shows the sheer impact that sugar can in part cause.
Then, the researchers looked to see the impact these had on costs such as doctors, hospitals and medicaments. They also accounted for loss of productivity due to not being able to work because of these conditions .
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that if Canadians had followed the WHO’s advice of 10% free sugar intake, then approximately $2.5billion could have been saved .
Moreover, a 5% approach, which is seen as the most desirable approach, would have led to a $5billion per year reduction in costs . Therefore, it is clear how sugar impacts the healthcare system.
The researchers made some recommendations at the end of their paper. They called on governments to use taxation and education as a way of encouraging healthier eating habits .
Furthermore, the researchers suggested that lowering sugar consumption was “an area of urgent need for action” . They also pointed to how the Covid-19 pandemic had caused many more people, including children, to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, thereby resulting in a higher calorie surplus .
Paul Veugelers, Professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, commented on the findings . He said that costs for “chronic diseases are ballooning” . He continued by saying “we not only need to make our health-care system more efficient, we should also act on the demand side by investing in primary prevention to ensure we have fewer patients with chronic diseases” .
Among these measures could be increased taxes. So-called “sugar taxes” have already been applied in some countries, with results so far rather positive .
The findings of this research are worrying. Because of the high sugar intake, it is likely that more Canadians will develop chronic conditions in upcoming years. It certainly seems that a lot of work needs to be done.
1) Think about your sugar consumption. How much of your total energy intake is made up of free sugars? You may want to consider lowering your intake, as this can help to lessen your chances of developing a chronic condition. If you have children, this is an important measure too.
2) It is important to remember that sugar impacts our oral health in many ways. Attending regular check-ups at the dentist is crucial, as if there are problems, they can be addressed. The sooner that problems are acknowledged, the easier treatment will be. As we gradually exit the Covid-19 restrictions, booking a dental check-up is among the most important things you can do.
What we offer at Taradale Dental
Taradale Dental is a dental clinic based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We offer many services, including regular check-ups, cavity fillings and root canals.
It is important for dental problems to be addressed early. Any oral-based problems will be identified at check-ups. This helps to prevent the problem getting worse. If and when further treatment is needed after a check-up, our patients receive a clear treatment plan.
The best way of avoiding extra treatment is to have strong oral hygiene. This includes brushing our teeth at least twice a day, flossing regularly, and getting a dental check-up at least twice a year. Avoiding sugary foods and drink and not smoking also helps.
Our Calgary-based dental clinic Taradale Dental also follows the Alberta Dental Fee Guide. This means our prices are competitive, transparent and affordable.
 World Health Organization. (2020). Healthy Diet. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet. Last accessed: 19th March 2022.
 NHS Choices. (2019). Tooth Decay. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tooth-decay/. Last accessed: 19th March 2022.
 Liu, S., Munasinghe, L. L., Maximova, K., Taylor, J. P., Ohinmaa, A., & Veugelers, P. J. (2022)/ The economic burden of excessive sugar consumption in Canada: should the scope of preventive action be broadened? The Canadian Journal of Public Health. (Pre-publication). DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.17269/s41997-022-00615-x.
 University of Alberta. (2022). Excess sugar consumption costs Canada’s health-care system $5 billion each year. Available: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-03-excess-sugar-consumption-canada-health-care.html. Last accessed: 19th March 2022.
 Johnson, C. (2018). Sugar tax works before it starts in UK. Australian Medicine. 30 (6): p19-38. DOI: https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/ielapa.553075243892613.