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This public forum was about the wide-ranging impacts of sugar in our society. Renowned broadcaster, Kim Hill, chaired an expert panel and took questions from the audience to tease out what we really know about this complex and controversial topic.

  • Thursday, 16 March 2017, 7pm-9pm
  • Clinical Education Centre, Auckland City Hospital, 2 Park Road, Grafton
This forum was recorded by Radio New Zealand and will be broadcast on RNZ National, Friday 14 April, 9.06am.
Access the forum recording online:

The 'cost' of sugar, Radio New Zealand website, 12 April, 2017 (51mins, 30sec)

Sugar: a hot topic

These days it seems as if everyone is talking about sugar. Governments around the world are being asked to consider taxing sugar sweetened beverages, and some hospitals and schools have banned them. Parents are concerned about the amount of sugar their children consume.

Researchers tell us sugars are hidden in many common foods. But sugar plays an important role in the economy of some developing nations. And many of us love the taste. Are we addicted? How much is sugar really contributing to the obesity crisis? Can taxes change our behaviour?

These questions, among others, were discussed by our expert panel, who drew on evidence from the latest research to inform this topical debate.

Meet our sugar forum presenters

Kim Hill

Kim HillKim Hill is unquestionably one of New Zealand's finest current affairs interviewers. In 2012 she won the International Radio Personality of the Year and judges described her as: "an experienced and warm broadcaster exercising full control of her content whilst coaxing her guests to reveal more of themselves; really enjoyable live and sparky content that demonstrates what is great about radio and illustrates how important lightness of touch is in speech content."

She has interviewed thousands of people (the famous and the infamous) and enjoys expansive interviews—she is looking forward to a highly engaging evening!

Professor Jim Mann, University of Otago

Professor Jim MannJim is a world leader in human nutrition, diabetes and obesity. For over 20years he has advised the World Health Organisation about the role of nutrition in diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The author of over 300 academic articles, he has published recent research on the role of sugar on our health.

Jim has worked as a consultant physician (specialising in Endocrinology) in Dunedin Hospital for the past 25 years.

Jim provided a brief summary on the health consequences of sugar, bringing in the research evidence and WHO recommendations.

Professor Jacqueline Rowarth, Environmental Protection Authority

Professor Jacqueline RowarthJacqueline is Chief Scientist for the Environmental Protection Authority, a role she embraced last year, after 35 years in teaching and research, most recently at the University of Waikato.

"My new role is a considerable change from teaching but, as my students know, I have a focus on facts, evidence and data, analysis and synthesis."

She has a degree in agricultural science with honours in environmental agriculture, a PhD in Soil Science (nutrient cycling) and research in carbon, nitrogen, food and economics.

Professor Rowarth was made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to agricultural science in 2008.

Jacqueline discussed the social and economic consequences of reducing global sugar intake on sugar producing countries.

Professor Tony Blakely, University of Otago, Wellington

Tony BlakelyTony is an epidemiologist and directs the HRC-funded Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost Effectiveness Programme (BODE3). This programme builds infrastructure (e.g. linked routine datasets) and capacity (e.g. epidemiological and economic decision modelling) to rapidly assess the health impact and cost effectiveness of a range of preventative and cancer control interventions—and examine their equity impacts. In 2016–2021 BODE3 is modelling a range of preventive interventions, including dietary and physical activity interventions.

Tony spoke about the economic consequences of health issues in countries with a high sugar intake (such as New Zealand), including a discussion on taxation.

The sugar forum hosts

The hosts are three leading research groups that share a common interest in tackling the health problems New Zealand is facing as a result of increasing levels of obesity and diabetes.

A Better Start National Science Challenge has a focus on finding better ways to predict, prevent and treat obesity in children and teenagers.

The Healthier Lives National Science Challenge aims to reduce levels of diabetes and obesity in adults in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.

The Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre has been working to reduce the global burden of these diseases through research and dissemination of knowledge for the past decade.

We are delighted to collaborate with each other in order to bring cutting edge national and international research findings to a wide audience in New Zealand.

Related event

The day after our public forum on sugar, we held a research symposium: The Diabesity Crisis: how can we make a difference?

Read more about the programme and speakers:

The Diabesity Crisis symposium

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The 'cost' of sugar forum

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