Two researchers from the industry-backed World Sugar Research Organisation and the University College Cork looked at the estimates of dietary sugars intake in both absolute (grams per day) and relative (% energy) terms and included definitions ‘total sugars’, ‘non-milk extrinsic sugars’, ‘added sugars’, sucrose' and ‘mono- and disaccharides’ from available national nutrition surveys.
Of the countries incorporated – which included the European countries Denmark, Ireland, Norway, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands and Austria - an increase in sugars intake was observed in just a few countries and only in specific subpopulations. They said data which allowed historical comparison for developing countries was not available.
“Although estimates of mean population dietary sugars intake may be increasing in some specific subpopulations, most comparisons reveal stable or decreasing trends in dietary sugars intake,” the researchers wrote.
Comparing the data they cross referenced by country, sex and age, just over half of these absolute and relative comparisons showed a decrease in consumption. However, not all countries and subpopulations showed decreased intakes.
The ups and downs of sugar intakes
“Absolute increases ranged from 2 g/d over a 10-year period in Swedish adult females to 15 g/d over a 20-year period in New Zealand adult females,” the review found.
“In contrast, dietary intake of sugars appears to have increased in 14% of comparisons when examined either by absolute or relative intake. Absolute decreases ranged from 1 g/d in German female children/adolescents over a period of 22 years to 18 g/d in male Norwegian adults over a period of 14 years. Relative decreases ranged up to a 3% points decrease in male Danish children/adolescents over a period of 11 years. The remainder of the comparisons increased and then decreased or varied in direction by subgroup of age.”
They said the adolescent population has been frequently pinpointed as a concern group with the highest reported intakes of sugars in some countries, although the review showed this was not a blanket rule.
Whilst sugars intakes increased in Dutch male adolescents, this was seen to reduce in other populations like Denmark, the US, UK and even for Dutch female adolescents.
As a result the researchers said references to changes in intakes should be made, wherever possible, in relation to these specific populations by country, sex and age group.
World Sugar Research Organisation employee Dr Anna Wittekind entered the included data, analysed the trends and wrote the first draft of the manuscript, which was then revised and verified by Dr Janette Walton who received funding from the industry research organisation. Dr Wittekind now holds the post of nutrition manager at Pepsico Europe.
Source: Nutrition Research Reviews
Vol 27, Iss 02,pp 330-345 doi:10.1017/S0954422414000237
“Worldwide trends in dietary sugars intake”
Authors: A. Wittekind and J. Walton