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WHO Says Cut Sugar Intake to Equal Half Can of Soda Per Day

sugarBy Alan Lyndon

If you use a spoonful of sugar to help medicine go down, you won’t have much more left to eat that day.  The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines today that daily intake of sugar should be no more than five percent of total calories.  For the average adult, that equals about six spoonfuls of sugar.

WHO’s current recommendation, in place since 2002, is that total sugar intake should be “less that 10 percent” of total energy or daily calories consumed.  However, the global health organization is now suggesting that going below the 10 percent threshold will significantly improve battles against obesity and cavities.

“We should aim for five percent if we can, but 10 percent is more realistic,” said Dr. Francesco Branco, Director of Nutrition for Health and Development for WHO. “Sugar might become the new tobacco in terms of risk.”

One of the main culprits of hidden sugars, especially in the U.S., is processed foods.  In comparison to the recommended “six spoonfuls” in the new guidelines, one can of sugared soda by itself contains 10 spoonfuls of sugar.  “It’s sometimes in condiments, sauce added to meats, a tablespoon of ketchup has up to seven grams of sugar and sweetened yogurt up to six grams,” said Branco.

According to studies used by WHO to draft the new guidelines, “reduced intake of dietary sugars was associated with a decrease in body weight” of almost two pounds in those surveyed. The research in BMJ concluded that “intake of free sugars or sugar sweetened beverages is a determinant of body weight.”

The recommendations apply to specific sugars including monosaccharides (such as glucose and fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar), both of which are commonly added to foods at home or by manufacturers.  Not included in the list of restricted sugars are the intrinsic sugars found in fruits and vegetables.

The American Heart Association concurs with the “less than 10 percent” rule stating that “those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent high risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar,” according to a January JAMA Internal Medicine study.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “tooth decay affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children aged 2–5 years and half of those aged 12–15 years.”

The public is invited to make comments on the guidelines through March 31.  The WHO draft guideline can be accessed here.

(Photo by Mel B. via Flickr)

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