Adults in the UK [and the US] should aim to cut their sugar intake to 5% of daily calories if they can, according to the World Health Organisation – less than the amount, for an average person, in a single can of Coca-Cola.
In a new draft guideline, the WHO said all people, at every stage of life, should try to reduce the amount of sugar they consume. It reiterated its 2003 guidance that countries should set an upper limit of 10% of daily calories from sugar – but said the ideal level would be 5%.
For an adult of average bodyweight, with an intake of about 2,000 calories a day, 5% would equate to 100 calories – which at four calories in a gram would be 25g of sugar, said Dr Francesco Branca, the WHO’s director of nutrition for health and development. A standard 330ml can of cola contains 35g of sugar.
Even at a 10% limit, said Branca, a can of sugar-sweetened drink “approaches the amount that is acceptable for an adult. For a child, since a child has a lower energy requirement, that could be a lot less. Consumption of a single serving of sugar-sweetened soda might actually exceed the limit of 10% of energy [from sugar] for a child.”
Branca added that soft drink consumption “is one of the elements that has been more constantly associated with increased weight gain, particularly in children. This is an area where more intense action needs to be taken if this guideline is to be implemented…”
The WHO’s nutrition guidance expert advisory group has been mulling over the evidence for nearly two years and commissioned scientific reviews of the evidence on the risks posed to health by “free sugars” – those added to food and drinks rather than the intrinsic sugars in fruit and vegetables.
The evidence is clearest on dental caries, the report says. Studies show an increase in tooth decay in children who get more than 10% of their calories from sugar…The link with obesity and diseases for which it is a risk factor, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, is less clear cut. However, analyses of all available well-conducted trials suggested that people who cut down on sugar also managed to reduce weight – and those who ate more sugar put on weight.
The new guideline is likely to be strongly opposed by the food and drink industry and their supporters, who argue that no one food or type of food is a problem – all food and drinks are fine in moderation, they say.
Meanwhile, you’ll not be harming yourself by reducing sugar intake. So, why not get off your rusty dusty, sort out your nutrition and diet, squeeze a little more exercise into your daily life – and don’t waste too many tears on the food and drink industry.