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Halve added sugar to curb obesity: Report

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

26th June 2014 – People should reduce the amount of added sugar in their diet by more than 50% in order to stem the growing trend towards obesity, say scientists.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has told the Government that sugars added to food by the manufacturer or which are naturally present in syrups and unsweetened fruit juices should account for no more than 5% of our energy intake.

For the population to lower consumption to around 5% of daily dietary energy intake would mean on average that women consumed 25g (5-6 teaspoons) and men 35g (7-8 teaspoons).

The report acknowledges that many people were unable to meet the previous 10% target.

The SACN body has reviewed evidence on carbohydrates – including sugar – on our health to draw up the recommendations for consultation.

Fizzy drinks

It also calls for adults and children to minimise intake of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks and squashes.

The draft recommendations say that reducing the amount of sugar in our diet would help cut obesity rates which have been increasing rapidly since the early 1990s.

  • The proportion of men in England classed as obese went up from 13.2% in 1993 to 24.4% in 2012
  • The proportion of obese women in England climbed from 16.4% to 25.1% during the same period
  • 9.7% of boys and 8.8% of girls aged 4 to 5 in England are classified as obese
  • 20.4% of boys and 17.4% of girls aged 10 to 11 in England are classed as obese

Heart disease, diabetes and cancer

The committee report says that reducing sugar consumption would help improve the health of the population. Dr Ann Prentice, chair of SACN, says in a statement: "There is strong evidence in the report to show that if people were to have fewer free sugars and add more fibre to their diet they would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.

"For their health, people need to consume a balanced diet which includes carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in free sugars and high in fibre."

Wholegrain, starchy foods

SACN proposes maintaining the current recommendation that 50% of the population’s daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates. Where possible, this should be obtained from wholegrain, starchy foods.

People should also aim to increase their fibre intake to 30g a day for people aged 16 and over.

Adolescents aged 11 to 16 should be eating 25g of fibre a day; 5 to 11 year olds should have 20g; and 2 to 5 year olds should have 15g.

30g of fibre a day can be achieved by eating all of the following on a daily basis:

  • 5 portions of fruit and vegetables
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread
  • A portion of high fibre breakfast cereal
  • A baked potato
  • A portion of whole wheat pasta

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