Families in Wolverhampton are being urged to download a new app and check how much sugar they are consuming – as new figures show children eat their own body weight in sugar every year. The free Sugar Smart app, launched today (Monday 4 February, 2016) by Public Health England, works by scanning barcodes to reveal the total sugar in food and drink in cubes or grams.

Health chiefs hope the app will help families combat tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes and encourage them to choose healthier alternatives.

Latest figures show that young children are eating three times more than the sugar limit, with four to 10-year-olds consuming the equivalent of more than 5,500 sugar cubes a year, or 22kg – the average weight of a five-year-old.

Supporting the new campaign, Councillor Sandra Samuels, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "We're encouraging parents to get Sugar Smart and take control of their children’s sugar intake.

"Eating and drinking too much sugar causes a range of problems, not least tooth decay. Indeed, almost half of eight-year-olds in England have tooth decay, which is the most common reason for children being admitted to hospital.

"Too much sugar also means extra calories, which in turn can lead to stored fat in the body, causing conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. We're already seeing the impact this is having in Wolverhampton, with a quarter of our five-year-olds and over 40% of Year 6 pupils either overweight or obese.

"This free app is an excellent way of creating awareness and enabling families to see just how much sugar is in the food and drink they are buying – and take steps to reduce the amount they consume on a daily basis."

The maximum recommended daily intake of sugar is 19g or four to five teaspoons for children aged four to six, 24g or five to six teaspoons for children between seven and 10, and 30g, or six to seven teaspoons for young people aged 11 and over and adults. As a guide, a chocolate bar contains six cubes of sugar, a small carton or pouch of juice drink contains over five cubes and there are nine sugar cubes in a can of cola.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England, said: "Children are having too much sugar, three times the maximum recommended amount. Children aged five shouldn’t have more than 19 grams of sugar per day. That’s five cubes, but it’s very easy to have more.

"That’s why we want parents to be Sugar Smart. Our easy to use app will help parents see exactly where the sugar in their children’s diet is coming from, so they can make informed choices about what to cut down on.”

Please click www.nhs.uk/change4life to download the new free app and get hints and tips on cutting down on sugar.

Obesity is estimated to cost the NHS £5.1bn per year – and over £80m in Wolverhampton alone – with this figure projected to rise to £9.7bn by 2050.

The Change4Life Sugar Smart campaign, being launched today, will see Sugar Smart packs given away to primary age children and their families via schools, councils and retailers.