In a press release on Wednesday the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued new guidelines on recommended daily sugar intake. The WHO 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.
Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development comments that ”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,” She continues by stating that ”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.”
Based on the quality of the supporting evidence, the recommendations are ranked by WHO as “strong” meaning they can be adopted as policy in most situations. This recommendations are based on analysis of the latest scientific evidence.
Much of the sugars consumed today are ‘hidden’ in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of free sugars while a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of free sugars. The WHO guideline do not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk, as there is no reported evidence of adverse any effects of consuming these 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 Norway to about 16-17% in Spain and the United Kingdom. Intake is much higher among children, ranging from about 12% 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%.
View the WHO’s press release for further insights.