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Frequently Asked Questions

All you need to know about why it is important to drink plenty of clean, safe water every day, what sugary drinks are and why we need to drink less of those:

1. Why is it so important to drink plenty of clean, safe water every day?

Water constitutes the major portion of the human body (50-70% or about two-thirds) and is essential for life. It regulates body temperature and is needed to enable the body to absorb nutrients from food and transport them around in the body. Water also removes waste products from the body.

It is important to drink clean, safe water to replace water losses that occur through the body to prevent dehydration. Other factors that increase the amount of water that is needed are breastfeeding, physical activity, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever due to illness. Fatigue, irritability and headaches are some of the symptoms of dehydration. When a person is dehydrated for a long time they may have pain in the joints, lower back, be constipated and their urine is a dark colour. Do not wait for your body to get thirsty ā€“ drink plenty of clean, safe water only to replace these losses. Sugary drinks including fruit juice, sweetened coffee or tea are not recommended in place of water.

2. What are sugary drinks?

Sugary drinks are drinks that are sweetened with various forms of free sugars. Examples include fizzy drinks, teas or coffees, flavoured waters, flavoured milk, drinking yogurt and sport and energy drinks. Fruit juices have a similar kilojoule and sugar content as drinks that have added sugar and are therefore regarded as sugary drinks. Sugary drinks therefore include sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) as well as fruit juices.

3. Why is there a focus on decreasing the drinking of sugary drinks?

Sugary drinks are major contributors to the rising problem of obesity rates. The consumption of sugary drinks has increased worldwide and South Africa is no exception. A 2014 study showed that the per capita consumption of soft drinks in the country increased by 69% from 55 litres/capita per year from 1999 to 92.9 litres/capita per year in 2012 . The proportion of adults drinking sugary drinks in rural areas approximately doubled from 25% to 56% in women and from 33 to 63% in men between 2005 and 2010. A recent study among adolescents in Soweto showed that sugary drink consumption among them was relatively high. On average, males consumed 44.7 g (11 teaspoons) and females 28.4 g (7 teaspoons) of added sugar per day from sugary drinks. Their total sugar intake per day from sugary drinks and confectionary was 80 g (20 teaspoons) for males and 69.1 g (17 teaspoons) for females.

4. What effects does the consumption of frequent or large amounts of sugary drinks have on health?

Frequent consumption is associated with weight gain and obesity; the development of other chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease; fragile bones and other bone diseases like osteoporosis as well as tooth decay and cavities.

5. Iā€™m not overweight. Why do I need to worry about what I drink?

Weight alone is not the only indication of your overall health. Therefore, every person should eat healthy, irrespective of their weight. Sugary drinks can lead to increased visceral fat, a fat that builds up in and around organs in your body. This can lead to diabetes, heart disease, or a fatty liver. Extra kilojoules from sugary drinks make it harder for the average person to maintain a healthy weight, increasing the risk of becoming overweight over time.

6. What are free sugars and how much can we have?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), free sugars are sugars that are added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. The WHO recommends that adults and children throughout life should reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake and for more health benefits, to less than five per cent of total daily energy. This means that the maximum intake of free sugars from food and beverages per day for adult men and adolescents (14 ā€“ 18 years) should not be more than 12 teaspoons and for adult women and children five to 13 years, not more than nine teaspoons. To achieve more health benefits, the number of teaspoons of sugar from food and beverages per day for adult men and adolescents (14 ā€“ 18 years) should not be more than six teaspoons and for adult women and children five to 13 years, not more than five teaspoons.

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