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Charity calls for dramatic cut in sugar consumption

WHO urged to recommend sugar comprises just 5% of daily calories

Mark Gould

Thursday, 06 March 2014

UK charity Action on Sugar is pressing the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend that sugar should comprise just five per cent of our daily calories.

Yesterday the WHO launched a public consultation on its draft guideline on sugars intake which, while sticking with its existing guidelines recommending that sugar should make up less than 10 per cent of total daily energy intake, adds that a further reduction below five per cent would have "additional benefits". Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI). But campaigners want the WHO to adopt a tougher line.

Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, said: "Added sugar is completely unnecessary part of our diets, contributing to obesity, type II diabetes and tooth decay. We strongly urge the WHO to recommend reducing sugar intakes to below 5 per cent (of) daily calories, as this will have the biggest impact on our health.

"We have known about the health risks of sugar for years and yet nothing substantial has been done - new recommendations will be a wakeup call to the Department of Health and the Government to take action on sugar now by forcing the industry to slowly reduce the huge amount of sugar added by the food industry across the board. Setting targets for sugar reduction will not rely on the industry determined Responsibility Deal Calorie Pledge which has had no measurable effect on calorie intake. Unless they act now, obesity and diabetes are going to completely overwhelm the NHS."

Cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, Dr Aseem Malhotra, fully welcome the calls for the WHO to recommend intakes to be reduced to 5 per cent, but said this needs to be "translated into something meaningful". "In particular, consumers need to know how much sugar is being added to processed foods; which currently isn't the case,” he said.

"The current UK guidelines suggest you can consume up to 22.5g sugar daily, even though there is no requirement for added sugar in the diet. The public deserves to know how much sugar is being added to foods, and the government has a duty to protect children from the manipulations and excess of the food industry."

WHO’s suggested limits on intake of sugars in the draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

It says that much of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar.

The draft guideline was formulated based on analyses of all published scientific studies on the consumption of sugars and how that relates to excess weight gain and tooth decay in adults and children.

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