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New WHO guidelines recommend less sugar intake

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Staff writer | Friday March 6, 2015 3:00AM ET
Ketchup sugar
World Health Organization   Adults and children should reduce intake of free sugars

New guidelines by World Health Organization (WHO) recommended a marginal reduction in daily sugar intake to boost health and stave off non-communicable diseases.


The United Nations health agency recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5 percent or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides such as glucose and 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.

Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, says the agency has "solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay." "Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases."

The new guidelines do not apply 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.

The WHO's recommendations are based on evidence showing that adults who consume less sugar have lower body weight and that increasing the amount of sugars in the diet is associated with a weight increase. It also shows that children with the highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.

 

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