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WHO recommends halving daily sugar intake in fight against obesity

Published on Mar 6, 2014 10:02 AM
 
The World Health Organisation has said the recommended amount of sugar consumed daily should be halved as it stepped up its battle against public health problems like obesity and tooth decay. -- BH FILE PHOTO: JOHARI RAHMAT

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation has said the recommended amount of sugar consumed daily should be halved as it stepped up its battle against public health problems like obesity and tooth decay.

The UN health agency said on Wednesday it was maintaining its 2002 guidelines that sugars should make up less than 10 percent of total daily energy intake but stressed that half would be preferable.

Cutting sugar consumption to just five percent of total energy intake would mean an adult with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) should consume no more than about six teaspoons per day.

That includes all sugar added to food and beverages as well as natural sugar in things like honey, syrups and fruit juice, WHO said.

"A high level of consumption of free sugars is of concern, because of its association with poor dietary quality, obesity" and the risk of non-communicable diseases, the agency said in its draft guidance.

At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, not counting the large percentage of diabetes, heart disease and cancer cases attributable to being overweight, according to WHO numbers, which also show that more than 40 million children under the age of five are overweight.

Tooth decay is also a major, and very expensive health problem, the agency said Wednesday, stressing that treatment of dental disease costs up to 10 percent of healthcare budgets in industrialised countries.

"Much of the sugars consumed today are 'hidden' in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets," WHO warned, pointing out that a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains about 40 grammes, or 10 teaspoons of sugar.

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