Sugar intake must be slashed further, say scientists

The target to reduce sugar consumption should be much more ambitious, health experts say.

Both the World Health Organization and government advisers in England have recently proposed a cut in their recommendations for sugar consumption.

The new advice is that it should account for 5% of energy intake – down from 10%.

But a study published in the BMC Public Health journal suggested the target should be no more than 3%.

The researchers – from University College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – said the move was needed after looking at the cost in both health and financial terms of tooth decay.

They said sugar was the most important factor in the development of tooth decay and because of that it was a “largely preventable disease”.

The study said an increase from near-zero sugar to 5% of energy intake doubles the prevalence of decay in children,

The treatment of dental problems costs between 5% and 10% of total health expenditure in industrial countries, it added.

Daily added sugar intake by age group

Report co-author Prof Philip James, a nutrition expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and past president of the World Obesity Federation, said tough action was needed.

Sugar tax

He called for vending machines offering confectionery and sugary drinks in areas controlled by government, such as schools and hospitals, to be removed.

He also said foods that take consumption above 2.5% should be labelled as high and a sugar tax introduced to curtail consumption.

Prof James said there was no “magic silver bullet”, but added that action was needed as sugar consumption was a huge public health issue.

Despite the move to reduce sugar consumption, evidence shows that many people were failing to meet the old 10% target.

The target of 5% of energy intake from free sugars amounts to 25g for women (five to six teaspoons) and 35g (seven to eight teaspoons) for men, based on the average diet.

One 330ml can of fizzy pop would take a typical adult up to the proposed 5% daily allowance, without factoring in sugar from any other source.

Both of the authors of the study are part of the Action on Sugar campaign group, which has been calling for tough measure to combat sugar consumption.

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