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It all probably began about a hundred years ago when industrialisation brought cheap sugar to the masses. And food manufacturers found out that when they added a little more sugar and a little more salt to their product, their sales go up. And if they fry them in oil, sales go through the roof. Today, walk through any supermarket and every food product without exception has added sugar and salt.

Our taste buds have been carpet-bombed for so long with sugar and salt that we have lost our innate ability to appreciate and savour the vast varieties flavours that are found in fresh fruits, vegetables, meats etc. The moment we feel the food is too bland (read: not sweet or salty enough) we reach for the sauce bottle that is inevitably packed full of added sugar and salt.

Malaysians are now labeled as the fattest people in Asia with one of the fastest growth in diabetes rates in the world. One in five Malaysians are diabetic and by 2020, one in four Malaysians will be diabetic and with the ‘sweet disease’ comes all the concomitant complications of eye, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and dialysis, limb necrosis and amputations, etc, the treatment of which our health minister recently said, costs us RM4 billion or more a year.

Malaysians need a drastic paradigm shift in our mindset towards added sugar and salt and our propensity to fry stuff with generous amounts of oil. We need to move away from our love for sugar and salt and fried stuff and rediscover the wonderful variety of taste of fresh whole unblended fruits and vegetables and meats without the overwhelming masking and unhealthy corruption of added sugar and salt.

If we do so, we will become healthy, live longer and productively, suffer less from chronic diseases and enjoy our food much much more because we will then regain our ability to distinguish the finer flavours in all the different foods and enjoy them as they were meant to be savoured and relished originally.

We dentists are deeply concerned about the impact of sugar on dental caries and its superimposed impact on all the other diseases of the mouth and body. The Malaysian Dental Association in conjunction with their international oral health convention as part of their CSR public health project will attempt to do the near impossible - to help change the mindset of Malaysians to move away from excessive sugar and salt intake.

To do so, we have put together a three-hour programme with three of Malaysia’s most unusual and outstanding personalities in their field.

It will kick off with Asia’s top comedian Harith Iskandar who will perform and introduce a public lecture by the well known guru of economic transformation, Pemandu chief YBhg Idris Jala who will deliver a mind-blowing lecture on ‘Economic Transformation and the True Cost of Sugar’.

Not finished yet, we have our famous Malaysian gastronomic genius Chef Wan... yes, The Chef Wan, who will not only give a live cooking demonstration of how to cook healthy food... if you are lucky enough will get to taste the Chef Wan Healthy Nasi Lemak Special and get a chance to donate to charity.

The MDA Think Tank Operasi Sifar Gula will be held on Sunday Jan 15, 2017 at Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur from 11am to 2pm.

All are welcome. Register to come by messaging Operasi Sifar Gula followed by your name and IC.

DR CHOW KAI FOO is president, Malaysian Dental Association.

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