The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week that it would retain its earlier 2002 recommendation that added sugars should account for no more than 10% of total calories. However, in light of new research on dental caries and obesity, it suggested there would be “additional benefits” to cutting added sugar intake further, to 5% of total calories.
“We welcome the World Health Organisation’s acknowledgement that “energy balance is critical to maintaining a healthy body weight” and its continued recommendation that intake of sugars not exceed 10% of total energy. We are supportive of measures that help people better manage their overall calorie intake and diet,” said British Sugar managing director Richard Pike.
“We are concerned, however, that the WHO has suggested an ambition and conditional recommendation to reduce total daily energy intake of sugars to below 5%. While it acknowledges that there is uncertainty in support of this recommendation, and that substantial debate is needed, this proposal may mislead and confuse the public.”
Indeed, the WHO has opened the issue for public consultation until March 31, saying that its advice will only be finalised after review of comments from the consultation and peer review. Then, the draft guidelines will be revised if necessary and cleared by WHO’s Guidelines Review Committee, it said.
Limiting added sugars to less than 5% of total calories would equate to about 25 g of sugar, or about 6 teaspoons, for an average-sized adult.
According to Simon Capewell, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool, the average British person would have to cut their sugar intake by a third to reach even the 10% recommendation.
Pike added that UK government statistics suggest there has been about a 12% reduction in average intake of total sugars over the past decade.
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