The World Health Organization is calling on countries to reduce the sugar intake in adults and children to 10% of their total energy intake. They recommend an additional reduction to 5%.
Sugars in general include 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,” said 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 guidelines are aimed specifically at the hidden or added sugars contained in processed food and sweetened beverages. In Europe, sugar 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%.
The recommendations are based on scientific studies that have correlated lower consumption of sugars in adults to lower body weight and vice versa. The obesity epidemic in children has been linked to a high consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. The WHO researchers recommend dropping sugar sweetened beverages to 5% of total energy intake for additional health benefits.
WHO Press Release