News article

WHO: Daily sugar intake should be halved

Posted:  Tuesday, March 11, 2014

After Britain's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said a sugar tax may be needed to curb obesity rates, the WHO advises halving the amount of sugar that people consume daily.

As per the draft guidance published by WHO, it advises a huge reduction in sugar intake to avoid health problems including obesity.

People will be advised to halve the amount of sugar in their diet, under new World Health Organization guidance. The recommended sugar intake will stay at below 10% of total calorie intake a day, with 5% the target, says the WHO. The suggested limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

The recommendation that sugar should account for no more than 10% of the calories in the diet, was passed in 2002.

It works out at about 50g a day for an adult of normal weight, said the WHO.

However, a number of experts now think 10% is too high, amid rising obesity levels around the world.

Announcing the new draft measures, the WHO said in a statement: “WHO's current recommendation, from 2002, is that sugar should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day. The new draft guideline also proposes that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day. "It further suggests that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits.”

Dr. Francesco Branca, director for nutrition for health and development at the WHO, warned that obesity already affected half a billion people. The recommendation for less than 5 per cent was important because it told countries that reductions to "below 5 per cent are even better", he said. "We should aim for 5% if we can," he added.

Director of Nutrition and Diet, Alison Tedstone, said: “Our surveys show that the UK population should reduce their sugar intake as average intake for adults is 11.6% and for children is 15.2%, which is above the current UK recommendation of 10%.”

Campaign group, Action on Sugar, said it was pressing for 5% to become the firm recommendation.

The WHO guidelines are based on a review of scientific evidence on the health impact of sugar, including damage to teeth and the effect on obesity.

The obesity study, published last year in the BMJ, found while sugar did not directly because obesity, those who consumed a lot of it, particularly in sweetened drinks, tended to put on weight as sugary food did not make them feel full.

A review of the link between sugar intake and tooth decay, carried out by UK researchers, found cases of tooth decay were lower when sugar made up less than 10% of daily calories.

"Much of the sugars consumed today are 'hidden' in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets," the WHO warned, pointing out that a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains about 40 grams - or 10 teaspoons - of sugar.

Prof Tom Sanders of the School of Medicine, King's College London, said a limit of 5% added sugar "would be very tough to meet". He added: "5% is untried and untested; 10% we can live with."