The intake of added sugar in people’s daily diet should be halved as part of a campaign to cut Britain’s soaring obesity levels, according to an influential report by government adviser the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
The long-awaited SACN report on carbohydrates, including sugars, published today (June 26) recommended that about 5% of people’s daily energy should could from free sugars (refined carbohydrates). The advice, which updates the previous guidance of 10%, is in line with advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It recommended limiting daily dietary energy intake from sugar to 25g (5–6 teaspoons) for women and 35g (7–8 teaspoons) for men, based on average population diets.
The report singled out sugary drinks for particular criticism. “The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (eg fizzy drinks, squash) should be minimised by both children and adults,” said the report.
Further recommendations of the SACN report included other carbohydrates, including starchy foods and fibre.
People should base their diet on starchy foods and whole grains where possible, it recommended. The report advised maintaining the current recommendation that 50% of the population’s daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates.
On fibre, the report advised increasing daily total fibre intake to 30g/day for adults, 15g for 2–5 year olds; 20g for 5–11 year-olds; 25g for 11–16 year-olds; and 30g for 16–18 year-olds.
SACN said 30g of fibre a day could be achieved by consuming all of the following on a daily basis: five portions of fruit and vegetables, two slices of wholemeal bread, a portion of high-fibre breakfast cereal, a baked potato and a portion of whole wheat pasta.
Dr Ann Prentice, chair of SACN, said the committee had conducted a rigorous assessment of the role of carbohydrates in the diet and their effect on health.
‘Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer’
“There is strong evidence in the report to show that if people were to have less free sugars and more fibre in their diet they would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer,” said Prentice.
“For their health, people need to consume a balanced diet which includes carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in free sugars and high in fibre.”
Before making its recommendations the committee reviewed more than 600 studies to identify the effect of carbohydrates, including sugar, on health.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, urged charities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, businesses, retailers and consumers to work together to reduce the amount of sugar we eat as a nation.
“Eating too much sugar is harming our health; excess sugar and calorie intake leads to being overweight and obese and consequently having a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and breast and colon cancer,” said Tedstone.
“Currently, a third of our 10 and 11 year-olds are overweight or obese with the majority coming from the most deprived communities, which is unacceptable.”
The SACN report is now open for consultation until September 1 2014. The committee is inviting comments from academics, NGOs, charities and industry representatives.
Read Dr Susan Jebb’s concerns about mandatory sugar targets here . Jebb is chair of the Public Health Responsibility Deal Food Network.
Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group will be staging a free, one-hour, independent webinar on obesity and its remedies on Thursday, July 3 at 1100 GMT. Book your place at the online seminar – organised in association with the Institute of Food Science & Technology and backed by the British Dietetic Association and Nutrition Society – here .
SACN report: key findings
- Free sugars: Only 5% of people’s daily energy should come from free sugars, compared with 10% previously, in line with WHO advice
- Starchy foods and whole grains: maintained current recommendation that 50% of daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates.
- Fibre: increase daily total fibre intake to 30g/day for adults, 15g for 2–5 year olds; 20g for 5–11 year-olds; 25g for 11–16 year-olds; and 30g for 16–18 year-olds.