In a commentary published in The Lancet, chairman of the newly formed lobby group, Graham MacGregor, and registered nutritionist with the group, Kawther Hashem, said they would like to see incremental reductions across the food supply for the next three or four years.
Not adding sweeteners would help people’s palates to adjust to a less sweet taste, in much the same way as the UK’s salt reduction initiative has worked gradually to rehabilitate tastes to less salt, they claim. Average salt consumption in the UK fell by about 15% from 9.5 g 2000-1 to 8.1 g in 2011, and the voluntary reduction campaign led to about 30% less salt being added by the food industry over the ten-year period.
However, MacGregor and Hashem would like to see sugar reduced even faster than salt.
“A 30–40% reduction in the amount of added sugar with no substitution would reduce calorie intake on average by 100 Kcals per day per person and would help to prevent obesity and diabetes,” they wrote. “Ideally, such a reduction could be achieved in the next 3–4 years by gradually reducing sugar by about 10% each year.”
According to a UK dietary survey, average consumption of added sugars in the UK is 62 g per day – about 12.6% of average energy intake. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently reiterated advice that no more than 10% of calories should come from added sugars, but added that there could be additional health benefits from cutting sugar further, to less than 5% of calories.
The Action on Sugar group proposes setting targets for industry “with a maximum limit and either an average or sales-weighted limit in each food and soft drink category that has sugar added”, they wrote in their commentary.
“Importantly, there would be no substitution with artificial sweeteners, so that the taste receptors would adjust, and, in solid foods, no addition of other foods to make up for the reduction in sugar content. In some food products this will cause a reduction in weight or serving size.”
They added that progressive voluntary targets would be important to create a level playing field for industry.
Speaking to FoodNavigator last month, AB Sugar’s head of food science, Julian Cooper, said that sugar’s presence in some foods provides more than sweetness and calories; it also has some important functional properties, such as providing texture and acting as a preservative.
Source: The Lancet
“Action on sugar—lessons from UK salt reduction programme”
Authors: Graham A MacGregor, Kawther M Hashem
Interested in learning more about sugar and how it affects health? FoodNavigator will bring together four global experts on the issue on March 31 to debate its potential dietary effects – professors Robert Lustig, John Sievenpiper, Luc Tappy and Graham MacGregor. Click here to register for free.