6 Mar 2014

WHO cuts sugar guide by half

8:55 pm on 6 March 2014

The World Health Organisation has cut by half its recommendation for how much sugar people should eat to avoid health risks such as obesity and tooth decay. It says sugar is a key culprit in the obesity epidemic that affects half a billion people worldwide.

An obesity study in 2013 shows sugary foods and drink did not make people feel full.

An obesity study in 2013 shows sugary foods and drink did not make people feel full. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The recommended sugar intake will stay at below 10% of total calorie intake a day, with 5% the target. The suggested limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates, the BBC reports.

The recommendation that sugar account for no more than 10% of calories was passed in 2002 and works out at about 50g a day for an adult of normal weight, the WHO says.

The agency's director of nutrition, Francesco Branca, says people's health will improve if the new recommendation is followed.

However, a number of experts now think 10% is too high, amid rising obesity levels worldwide.

The WHO guidelines are based on a review of scientific evidence on the health impact of sugar, including damage to teeth and the effect on obesity.

The obesity study, published in 2013 in the British Medical Journal, found while sugar did not directly cause obesity, those who consumed a lot of it, particularly in sweetened drinks, tended to put on weight as sugary food did not make them feel full.

The new guideline will go out for public consultation, with firm recommendations expected in the middle of this year.