WHO cuts sugar intake advice to 5 percent of daily calories

March 8, 2014 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

WHO cuts sugar intake advice to 5 percent of daily calories

Sugar should account for less than 5 percent of what people eat each day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain and tooth decay linked to excessively sugary diets, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last week.

Issuing new draft sugar guidelines, the United Nations health agency said its recommendations were based on "the totality of evidence regarding the relationship between free sugars intake and body weight and dental caries".

Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

WHO said the 5 percent level should be a target for people to aim for - calling it a "conditional recommendation" - but also reiterated a "strong recommendation" that sugar should account for no more that 10 percent of total energy intake.

"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars - particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages - increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories," the WHO statement said.

This can lead "to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer)."

Five percent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons worth) of sugar per day for an adult of normal body weight.

Mounting evidence also suggests high sugar diets are a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Last month, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who get more than 25 percent of their daily calories from added sugars almost triple their risk of dying from CVD.

In 2009, the American Heart Association released guidelines to cur sugar to 5 percent of daily calories as a measure to guard against cardiovascular disease. 

Find out how easy it is for sugar to find its way into your diet, even if you don't drink pop or eat sweets.

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