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Sugar – Right information enables Right Choices

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Great turnout at Sugar and Fat Information evening

There was barely a seat to be had at the Whelehans Pharmacy “Sugar and Fat” information evening held at the Greville Arms Mullingar last Monday 7th March.  An audience of over 200 people attended what was a truly enlightening event. The huge turnout further underlines people’s desire to be informed and get the right information from those that know.


Prior to the main event presentations, people arriving were able to explore a variety of information and support stands from the Irish Dental Hygienists Association, Diabetes Ireland and an excellent Food Table presentation prepared by Owen Pettigrew of St Marys NS Mullingar and presented by his friend Niall Doonan also from St Mary’s NS.  In addition, in line with the event theme, free Glucose and Blood Pressure checks were on offer. These proved extremely popular, with over 100 people taking advantage of this throughout the course of the evening. Whelehans Pharmacy would like to extend a huge vote of thanks to the Order of Malta staff who administered the checks. Their work is all voluntary, so, much appreciated.
“One Easter Egg can have 73 Teaspoons of Sugar!”
Pauline Dunne, Senior Dietitian and Regional Development Officer, Diabetes Ireland, was the first speaker of the evening. The particular focus of her presentation was the Diabetes Ireland “Sugar Smart” campaign running currently on their website.
Starting with a broad outline of “the balanced diet”, illustrated via the six main food groups on the classic Food Pyramid, Pauline moved to Sugar awareness. From this, she was then able to quantify the “recommended daily amount” of sugar a person should consume……which is 200 calories or 12.5 tsp (50g). Defining the standard measure of 1 teaspoon = 4g of sugar, Pauline then went on show the audience some extreme sugar content examples taken from the Sugar Smart campaign.
There were audible gasps of amazement (horror?) when Pauline showed a selection of sugar content infograms ranging from a typical “cinema combo” (46 tsp of sugar!) to the humble festive mince pie (6 tsp!).
Given the time of year, Pauline also showed a startling table outlining the sugar content contained in a variety of Easter Eggs (topping out at a massive 73 tsp…in one egg offering!!)


Pauline then gave a range of helpful food management tips and strategies before concluding with a summary around balanced diet, getting smarter about food labels and portion sizes and the importance of daily regular exercise.


The “Silent Killers”
Next up was Eamonn Brady MPSI, Pharmacist and owner at Whelehans. Dovetailing perfectly with the previous talk, Eamonn gave an insightful symptoms overview of the conditions most related to obesity, namely cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure along with outlines of medications associated with managing these conditions. Eamonn described the three conditions of high cholesterol, high blood glucose (Diabetes) and high blood pressure as the “silent killers” as for most people they are symptomless but greatly increase your risk of premature death from heath disease.  Given that a high number of the audience had their glucose and BP checked, the information presented hit the right note with a “cautionary” style.
Eamonn also stressed the importance of regular checks for all the “numbers” associated….so, Cholesterol …. Less than 5.2mmol/litre, Diabetes / Glucose….less than 7mmol/L, and BP less than 140/90 mmHg being the ideal target levels….
In line with the Diabetes Ireland message, Eamonn further highlighted the preventative benefits of a balanced diet and regular exercise regime.
Obesity is a ticking time bomb
Following a short break, the main speaker of the evening was Dr Donal O’Shea, Consultant Endocrinologist at St Comcille’s and St Vincent’s hospitals and leading Obesity expert, specialising in obesity in children.
In what was to be a highly informative presentation, Dr O’Shea began his talk by illustrating the changing nature of health in Ireland over the last 30 years. Whereas in the past, someone who was 17- 20 stone would be uncommon, today this weight level has become prevalent. Dr O’Shea outlined the various societal factors that contribute to this, commenting that whilst life expectancy is now longer than it has ever been, what this actually means is that more people are living longer with chronic medical conditions and the associated burden on the already stretched resources available.
Dr O’Shea then moved on to his specialist area, Obesity in Children. The audience were left under no illusions as to the dangers and epidemic proportions of the Child Obesity problem in Ireland. He showed examples to illustrate the insidious corporate and profit based nature of product placement and advertising by food and drink manufacturers that subliminally targets children. One particular example, that of a simple bag of tortilla chips, promoted as a “game” that then developed into over consumption through “playing” especially in early teens….resulting in huge sales for the manufacturer. Again, his message was unambiguous……. in Ireland, this needs to change, now, today, at a fundamental education level.
The “Imperative for Change” was then explored further with information of gene related evidence of the vastly increased levels of diabetes and cancer projected for the population over the next 30 years.
Many examples of the changing attitudes to food consumption in other countries were given. A light hearted, but none the less serious look at the” Food Pyramid” concept around the world only added to concerns of the stasis that exists in Ireland regarding the challenge facing the healthcare profession in the future.
Would we allow 7 year old children smoke?
The most startling image of the evening was that of a 7 yr old girl smoking……. Dr O’Shea shared his view, that the revulsion that people feel seeing that picture should be the way they feel about seeing children consume sugary foods and drinks …. It is really that harmful. Dr O’Shea predicted that “in 15 years' time sugar sweetened drinks will be considered effectively poison, if not banned, to those under 18. It will be like a kid smoking, that is how it will look and it just won't be acceptable."
To conclude, Dr O’Shea gave his views on the right type of exercise…..that of more endurance and stamina based activities, rather than pushing weights….
In summary, he said that childhood obesity is the biggest societal and public health challenge we face and again that all sugary drinks should be replaced with water and to advocate the views of previous speakers, plenty of the right exercise and proper sleep.The event closed with a very interactive Q&A session.
Whelehans Pharmacy would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who took the time to come along and support the event. Thanks also to those who provided stands and information, and lastly, to our speakers. Keep an eye on press for our many upcoming events over the next few months.


For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to or dial 04493 34591.



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