AMA Wages War On Sugar, Government Called to Take Action

AMA Wages War On Sugar, Government Called to Take Action

AMA Wages War On Sugar, Government Called to Take Action

A tax on sugar, advertising restrictions and a comprehensive education campaign are some of the appeals made by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) as a response to Australia’s health crisis. As bariatric and general surgeons on the frontline of obesity-related health issues, we firmly agree it is time to take a stance on nutritional health. More than half of all Australians are now at a weight which puts their health at risk, and poor nutrition is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. We look at the AMA’s recommendations, and the response so far.

This month, the AMA issued a statement calling for the Government at all levels to prioritise Australia’s nutrition and eating habits, calling for significant changes, including a comprehensive educational campaign implemented from all levels of government.

“Improving the nutrition and eating habits of Australians must become a priority for all levels of government,” AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said.
“You wouldn’t dream of putting 15 teaspoons of sugar in your tea or coffee,” he also told 9NEWS.
“But that’s what is hidden inside these drinks”

What the AMA is recommending

Here are some of their recommendations they made urging the government to consider the “full complement of measures available to them to support improved nutrition”:

  • SUGAR TAX. A tax on sugar-sweetened beverages “as a matter of priority”
  • AFFORDABLE FRESH FOOD. Fresh, minimally processed food made affordable for all.
  • NUTRITION FOCUS. The government should be spending more to improve guidelines, health literacy and behaviours, as well as improve research and data collection.
  • WATER FIRST. Water should be promoted as default beverage option.
  • RESPONSIBLE FOOD INDUSTRY. The food industry should be acting in a socially responsible manner in food promotion and marketing – especially towards children. Reducing unnecessary sugars, salts and fats from processed foods.
  • BETTER FOOD LABELLING. Improvement of Health Star Rating system, distinguishing between naturally occurring and added sugars.
  • ASSIST SPECIFIC GROUPS. The AMA has also called for specific recommendations to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; children and the elderly.
  • HEALTH CARERS LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Unhealthy vending machines removed from healthcare settings; access to healthy foods for all patients, staff and visitors.

We encourage you to read the AMA’s full nutrition position statement.

What has been the response so far on a sugar tax?

The Turnball Government has reportedly refused to tax sugar, despite Britain, Ireland, Belgium, France, Mexico, Fiji, South Africa and parts of the United States doing so in recent years.

The federal minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud, said last week governments “should not dictate the diet of citizens”.

“People need to take personal responsibility,” he said. “Increasing the family grocery bill will not magically make Australians skinny.”…

“The AMA has made many sensible suggestions on this topic, but a soft drink tax is not one of them.”

The Australian Beverages Council has also naturally been opposed to the tax for some time. A Sydney Morning Herald report in October last year revealed the Australian Beverages Council, which represents the interests of many large soft drink makers, noted in its Annual Report it has been “consuming vast amounts of resources” to lobby politicians to oppose this tax.

Why should we intervene when it comes to nutrition?

You may ask “why should Australia be stepping in to tax sugar, educate the public, or restrict advertising? Isn’t it a person’s own choice what they eat and drink?” Australia’s obesity crisis is a national epidemic. We hear this so often, and yet, so often the blame is never attributed to more than the patient’s own choices. We believe there is so much more we can do as a national collective to help break the cycle of obesity and poor nutrition. As a society, we have an obligation to recognise that obesity is a disease, and should be treated as such.

If we compare it to smoking…

Initially, the risks for smoking were under-appreciated until repeated studies confirmed its deadliness in the mid-20th Century. Did this alone make people stop? No. Rates were at their highest at this time. A comprehensive report about tobacco in Australia attributes this rise in smoking numbers to:

  • Rising affluence
  • Progressive increases in marketing to women
  • Progressive increases in the making of factory-made cigarettes (instead of roll your own)
  • Introduction of television and cigarette advertising

So when the studies came out, the tobacco companies fought back.

It took a lengthy campaign over many years incorporating social trends; government policy including taxation, and stricter marketing regulations to help drive down tobacco consumption. Today, Australians still have free choice to smoke, but it is a much more informed ‘free choice’ which is saving lives.

So again, doctors and researchers are on the frontline of change, asking for society to take heed of their public health warnings, but this time around excess sugar consumption and rampant poor nutrition. Because indeed, obesity increases the risk of a whole host of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and more.

As a society, we have the same obligation to provide an informed free choice around our food products, and perhaps a sugar tax is a great way to discourage excess soft drink consumption and ensure that water is the preferred drink in Australian households. If this means we can save lives, then shouldn’t that be a priority for government and health professionals? We think so.

Want to Keep Up to Date With More News In Health?

We share all the latest news on weight loss surgery as well as nutrition, healthy food, exercise and weight management.

Weight Loss Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes to Be Funded by Qld Govt.

Weight Loss Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes to Be Funded by Qld Govt.

Weight Loss Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes to Be Funded by Qld Govt.

This week the Qld Government announced a $5 million initiative to fund weight loss surgery for up to 300 Queenslanders who have uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and other obesity related health complications. This is a significant public move which will help many. What it also does, is help remove the stigma of weight loss surgery, by highlighting its life-changing potential for type 2 diabetes sufferers and a whole range of obesity related health complications. We explain the initiative in more detail and also explain how weight loss surgery can potentially help those struggling with type 2 diabetes live a longer and healthier life.

What is The Initiative?

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick said yesterday the initiative will be open to Queenslanders aged 18-65 who are currently receiving public hospital specialist treatment for a condition that may be reversed or improved by bariatric surgery. These were his comments in a release to the media yesterday:

“The medical evidence suggests that in this group it is possible in many cases to switch off the type 2 diabetes and transform the health of the patient,” Mr Dick said.

Importantly, surgery will only be offered as a last resort if lifestyle intervention is unsuccessful.

AMA Queensland President Dr Bill Boyd said he was pleased to see that Queensland Health had taken steps to make bariatric surgery more accessible for the morbidly obese.

Diabetes Queensland CEO Michelle Trute agrees.

“It [the initiative] brings hope to people facing drastic consequences, among them many for whom life itself hangs in the balance,” she said.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where a person is unable to manage their blood glucose levels with insulin (known as insulin resistance). This causes the pancreas to over-respond by producing more insulin to compensate. Over time the insulin-producing cells dissipate. This means diabetes is a progressive condition which becomes harder and harder to manage.
In type 2 diabetes, the condition is partly genetic and partly lifestyle induced. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
According to Diabetes Australia, 1.7 million Australians already have diabetes, and an estimated 2 million Australians are at high risk of developing it and are already showing early signs of the condition.

“Type 2 diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic. The combination of massive changes to diet and the food supply, combined with massive changes to physical activity with more sedentary work and less activity, means most populations are seeing more type 2 diabetes.”

What is the Health Threat to Uncontrolled Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes is a progressive condition, and sufferers may not notice they have the disease right away. Often by the time they are diagnosed, significant damage is done. According to Diabetes Australia, diabetes:

  • Is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults
  • Is a leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis
  • Increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times
  • Is a major cause of limb amputations
  • Affects mental health as well as physical health. Depression, anxiety and distress occur in more than 30% of all people with diabetes
  • Affects mental health as well as physical health. Depression, anxiety and distress occur in more than 30% of all people with diabetes

Why is the Government Funding Weight Loss Surgery For Type 2 Diabetes?

Diabetes treatment is estimated to have a cost impact of $14.6 billion nationally.

The Queensland Government initiative follows many years of study on the efficacy of weight loss surgery in reducing and in many cases reversing type 2 diabetes and other diseases in obese patients.

In some patients, this metabolic surgery has been shown to improve blood sugar levels so significantly, that diabetes has gone into remission.

The growing evidence of the efficacy of weight loss surgery in treating type 2 diabetes was recognised in a joint statement by international diabetes organisations last year as part of a Diabetes Surgery Summit.

The Summit statement concluded that surgery should be part of interventions for type 2 diabetes, and recommended that health care regulators introduce appropriate policy. This conclusion was formally endorsed by 45 medical and scientific societies across the world.

Our Thoughts

Here at Weight Loss Solutions Sunshine Coast, we applaud this decision. We hope it helps to highlight that obesity is a significant and serious health issue. We know patients struggle with the stigma of choosing weight loss surgery. Some are concerned they will be seen as ‘vain’ or ‘lazy’ for their choice. This is far from the case. Obesity is a complex metabolic disease process which is affecting more and more Queenslanders. Focussing on both prevention and treatment is required to tackle this health issue.

There is no ‘one’ treatment of obesity and treatment must be tailored to each individual. This Queensland Government decision recognises and endorses the role of weight loss surgery as metabolic surgery in the setting of obesity and diabetes. At Weight Loss Solutions Sunshine Coast we implement a holistic approach to weight loss and our surgeons are supported by dietitians, phycologists and exercise physiologists.


Curious About Weight Loss Surgery?

If you would like to know a bit more about the process of weight loss surgery, head to our website for more information.

Weight Loss Surgery For Type 2 Diabetes Should Be Standard Treatment: Report Concludes.

Weight Loss Surgery For Type 2 Diabetes Should Be Standard Treatment: Report Concludes.

Weight loss surgery for type 2 diabetes is now being supported around the world as a standard treatment for some patients, with medical experts providing further evidence of its effectiveness. Metabolic (bariatric) surgery refers to procedures such as gastric sleeve surgery and gastric bypass.

Metabolic surgery (gastric sleeve, gastric bypass), previously designed solely for weight loss, has been recognised as playing a significant role for diabetic patients. In some patients, metabolic or bariatric surgery has been show to improve blood sugar levels to the point where patients have experienced long term remission of type 2 diabetes.

weight loss surgery for type 2 diabetes

Weight loss surgery for type 2 diabetes is now globally recommended for patients with a body mass index of 30 or more, where high blood sugar is not controlled well, despite treatment with either oral or injectable diabetes medications. These new evidence-based guidelines for the surgical treatment of type 2 diabetes have emerged from an international diabetic conference. The guidelines and approach to diabetes have been “hailed as the biggest change to the treatment of the disease in almost a century.” A Sydney Morning Herald article reports.

You can read the full report here: Metabolic surgery in the treatment algorithm for type 2 diabetes: a joint statement by international diabetes organisations.

How could weight loss surgery for type 2 diabetes help?

When a patient undergoes metabolic surgery huge changes take place in the gastro-intestinal anatomy. These changes can lead to weight loss, and in some cases they can also improve the patient’s ability to process sugars. There are many theories as to why this happens. Some experts say that changes in gut hormones allow the patient to process glucose better. Others point to surgery leading to a more effective bile acid metabolism. Others say surgery can improve the rate of nutrient sensing and metabolism in the intestinal tract. New theories also point to an improvement in gut microbiota following surgery.

You can read more about this research here: Metabolic Surgery for Type 2 Diabetes: Changing the Landscape of Diabetes Care

What do these findings mean for type 2 diabetics?

These conclusions should mean improved clinical approaches to type 2 diabetes in Australia and internationally.

Currently in Australia, some of the costs of procedures such as gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band surgery are partially covered under Medicare for morbidly obese patients. These surgeries are also eligible for rebates under the Private Health System. We are hoping that this consensus on the effectiveness of metabolic surgery in diabetic patients, will mean better access to metabolic surgery under our health care systems for type 2 diabetic patients in Australia who fit the recommended criteria.

Professor John Dixon, physician and diabetes researcher at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute agrees.

“We’ve got to shake up our public hospital system in each state and remove the barriers that are preventing people for getting this treatment,” Professor Dixon told SMH.

Both diabetes, and obesity are diseases which have grown to epic proportions in our society. Physicians look to this research to provide the type of guidance which will ensure that all Australians are given better health outcomes going forward. Exactly why metabolic surgery is effective in treating diabetes type 2, and ultimately, why this disease occurs at all, are exciting and important questions researchers can begin to ask in this field.

Weight Loss Surgery

Would you like to know more about weight loss surgery for type 2 diabetes?

We offer the full range of weight loss surgery procedures for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease. We provide gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass surgery, lap band surgery as well as non-surgical intra-gastric balloon, at two Sunshine Coast hospital locations.

About Weight Loss Solutions Sunshine Coast

Weight Loss Solutions Sunshine Coast is an integrated team of bariatric surgeons and weight loss health professionals, focused on long term patient outcomes for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease. The surgery team consists of Dr James Askew, Dr Garth McLeod, and Dr Benedict Mackay, who are experienced general and bariatric surgeons. They consult and operate on the Sunshine Coast as well as select regional Queensland locations. Weight Loss Solutions Sunshine Coast offers bariatric/metabolic surgery procedures such as gastric sleeve and gastric bypass as well as revisional surgery. Patient recovery and long term wellness following surgery is enhanced with the integration of diet, psychology and exercise alongside regular surgical follow-up. 

Find out more about weight loss surgery