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News 06.03.2015

WHO Calls On Countries To Reduce Sugars Intake Among Adults And Children

A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than…

A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 % of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5 % or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

Guideline on sugars intake for adult and children

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 % of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. “Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases.”

The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, because there is no reported evidence of adverse effects of consuming these sugars.

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 free sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars.

Worldwide intake of free sugars varies by age, setting and country. In Europe, intake in adults ranges from about 7-8 % of total energy intake in countries like Hungary and Norway, to 16-17 % in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom. Intake is much higher among children, ranging from about 12 % in countries like Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, to nearly 25 % in Portugal. There are also rural/urban differences. In rural communities in South Africa intake is 7.5 %, while in the urban population it is 10.3 %.

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