Family tastes sweet success of their sugar-free diet
GOONELLABAH resident Rich Duckett and his family stopped eating sugary foods two years ago when he was suffering from advancing arthritis, fatigue and asthma.
"The surgeon told me I had arthritis on my knees, and about three months later I started to get inflammation on my other joints," Mr Duckett said.
"My mother got it at about the same age, and I didn't want it to affect me for the rest of my life."
At the relatively young age of 35, he opted for a comprehensive dietary change - consuming more salads, smoothies and soups made with fresh fruit and vegetables and exercising more.
"I felt pretty tired and rundown at first when I stopped sugar, because I was always looking for that boost - that instant pick-up. But unfortunately it never lasts long," he said.
Two years later, Mr Duckett's diet and exercise routine has paid off with his symptoms gone and his energy levels up again.
Along with his wife Cass he has also educated his children, Ben, 5 and Ella, 4, on the benefits of eating less sugar.
"We find they seem more level-headed and calm... when they do have lots of sugar their moods go up quickly and then crash," Mr Duckett said.
"Ella's favourite cake now is raw cacao and avocado cake, with no sweetener except honey."
While consuming less sugar seems like common sense - and has been promoted by some doctors since the 19th century - Mr Duckett's dietary practices have now been backed up by the new National Health Guidelines, published every decade by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
For the first time since their original publication in 1982, the 2013 Guidelines recommended Australians limit food with added sugar because of a proven link between excessive sugar consumption and obesity.
In particular, the guidelines recommended limiting the consumption of "confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks."
The rigorous science-based procedures adopted by the NHMRC meant they weighed-up 55,000 pieces of peer-reviewed literature, and submitted their draft for two public consultations.
Yet even then, the recommendation against sugar has raised questions from the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
A representative from the AFGC said while the group had overall support for the new guidelines, they don't believe the "science is as settled around sugar as it is with other risk nutrients."
Lismore naturopath Russell Davie, who helped Mr Duckett develop his diet, said refined sugar had been on his blacklist for a long time.
Like many naturopaths who dealt with common ailments, he favoured limiting sugar across the board.
"In my clinical experience, people who reduce or even eliminate all sugars get the best results," Mr Davie said.
"Some patients are very strict about sugar and fats and will not have any isolated sugars or refined fats and oils and choose instead whole food sources.
"It astounds me how quickly those patients recover from chronic tiredness, indigestion and recurrent respiratory infections."