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Sugar might not be so sweet

Sugar is in almost everything we eat, and it's starting to have an impact on not only our health but also health care and insurance. Here, Pacific Prime China discusses sugar in China and the impact it is having on the population.

Posted on May 06, 2016 by Rob McBroom

From time-to-time, we all get that craving for something sweet. Be it a soda, chocolate, ice-cream, cake, or even fruit, we are almost always never far from things made with sugar. In fact, if you pause and think for a minute about everything you've eaten today, there is a good chance that sugar, in one form or another, has been in nearly everything. Sugar has become so ingrained in our food that it is actually hard to escape it and this is having a strong impact on not only our health but also our wallets. In this article, Pacific Prime China discusses the negative effects of sugar on both our health and health insurance.


Sugar and our health

In an article we recently published we took a look at the increasing prevalence of obesity in China and found that the country now has the highest percentage of obese people in the world. While there are a number of reasons that can be attributed to this rise, one of the most influential is the fact that the diet of many in the country has become increasingly westernized which is thought to be contributing to increased prevalence of health issues including obesity. But, this style of diet is also causing other health issues.  

One of the major contributors to the increasing prevalence of certain diseases is thought to be related to the consumption of sugar. According to the website Food Manufacturing in 2013 the annual sugar consumption per person in China was around 11 kg. This is considerably lower than other countries but was forecasted to "increase rigidly" at a rate of around 4-5% per year. An increase in sugar consumption is widely known to lead to, or exacerbate certain health conditions like:

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

The liver is responsible for essentially cleaning our blood and turning everything we eat or drink into elements usable by our body. If too much fat builds up on the liver - what is called Fatty Liver disease, it will not be able to operate as efficiently leading to increased chances of health issues. One of the known contributors to increased amounts of fat around the liver is a high intake of sugar.   


One thing to be aware of here is that sugar does not directly cause diabetes. According to the Diabetes Association: "Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes." Because sugar is a carbohydrate, and a diet with more calories and carbs than we need is known to lead to obesity, increased sugar intake can lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Combine this with the fact that sugar causes the pancreas to work harder to remove it from your system by secreting insulin. An increase in the amount of insulin in your system or consistent high levels can lead to insulin desensitization. If this continues over a longer period of time, you will develop diabetes.

Heart disease

Like diabetes, sugar does not directly result in heart disease. The link here is actually in diabetes. According to, "Heart disease and stroke are the number one causes of death among people with type 2 diabetes, accounting for 65% of those deaths." Therefore, by having large amounts of sugar in your diet, you not only increase your risk of diabetes but also heart disease.

Tooth decay

A popular primary school experiment run by many science teachers is to take a tooth and place it in a glass with cola for a few weeks which will result in the tooth being nearly dissolved in the sweet liquid.

According to the Nova Scotia Dental association, "The bacteria that form together to become plaque use sugar as a form of energy. They multiply faster and the plaque grows in size and thickness. Some of the bacteria turn the sugar into a kind of glue that they use to stick themselves to the tooth surface."

This plaque can lead to gum disease, especially if you are not careful to maintain brushing habits. According to WebMD, "Many studies have found that people with gum disease are more likely to also have poor heart health, including heart attacks."


Sugar's impact on insurance

Sugar is not just having an impact on our collective health however, it is also having a negative impact on the cost of healthcare and health insurance. For example, a 2013 report published by Credit Suisse found that the global cost for type 2 diabetes represents, "A healthcare bill of USD $500 billion or over 10% of global healthcare spending." and that by 2020, these costs could be over USD $700 billion.  

The report went on to name sugar as one of the leading contributors to the increase of type 2 diabetes in the past few decades. What is really alarming, especially in China, is that because sugar consumption is on the rise, you can expect to see an increase in current diabetes rates. Combine this with the other diseases that can be influenced by high levels of sugar in the diet, and it is clear to see that the prevalence of these diseases will also increase.

This is concerning because if more people are being diagnosed with a serious disease, there is going to be an increase in demand for care. When this happens, costs tend to go up, especially in China where some private hospitals will charge rates much higher than many can actually afford.  

More demand for care and increased cost of care will have a direct impact on health insurance as people will increasingly turn to plans to cover the increased costs. This means that there is more risk of insurers paying out on claims. To offset this, plans will see increased premiums or in a worst-case scenario, may even see measures implemented that minimize limits of certain diseases.

Because of the increasing prevalence of these disease in China, it would be beneficial to secure a plan with high claims levels and solid coverage elements. One of the best solutions is an international health insurance plan. Talk to the advisors at Pacific Prime China today to learn more about how you can secure the best health insurance plan on the market. 

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