Slash sugar intake to fight obesity, tooth decay: WHO

Wed Mar 4, 2015 4:00pm EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Adults and children from the Americas to Western Europe and the Middle East must roughly halve the amount of sugar they consume to lower risk of obesity and tooth decay, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

New guidelines mean people should reduce the amount to less than 10 percent of their daily energy intake -- or to about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults, the U.N. agency said.

A cut to less than 5 percent would be even better at helping prevent chronic diseases linked to poor diets including heart disease, cancers and diabetes, it added.

"The reason we are focusing on sugar is that we really have seen the important association with weight gain and obesity is a major public health concern for many countries, an increasing concern," the Director of WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, Dr. Francesco Branca, told a briefing.

The WHO's recommendations cover free sugars such as glucose and fructose, and sucrose or table sugar added to processed foods and drinks. They do not cover sugar found naturally in fresh fruit, vegetables and milk.

The current average in South America was 130 grams per adult per day, in North and Central America 95 grams, in Western Europe about 101 grams and 90 grams in the Middle East, Branca said. Equatorial and southern Africa has the lowest average of 30 grams.

"Where do we find free sugars, in reality we find them in a large number of products, in fact in the majority of products," he added.

One can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar, while orange and apple juices have between 24-26 grams, he said.   Continued...

A worker mixes red icing sugar in Aschheim near Munich September 16, 2010.    REUTERS/Michaela Rehle