Life is sweet, but were eating too much sugar (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Life is sweet, but were eating too much sugar
Lexile

New guidelines from the World Health Organization are enough to kill anyone's sugar high. The U.N. health agency says the world is eating too much sugar and people should slash their intake to just six to 12 teaspoons per day an amount that could be exceeded with a single can of soda.

So, put down that doughnut. And while you're at it, skip the breakfast cereal, fruit juice and ketchup.

The guidelines finalized draft advice first released last year and are focused on the added sugars in processed food, as well as those in honey, syrups and fruit juices. The advice does not apply to naturally occurring sugars in fruit, vegetables and milk, since those come with essential nutrients.

"We have solid evidence that keeping intake of (added) sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay," Francesco Branca, director of WHO's nutrition department, said in a statement.

Experts have long railed about the dangers of sugar and studies suggest that people who eat large amounts of the sweet stuff are at higher risk of dying prematurely from heart problems, diabetes and cancer, among other conditions.

To meet the lower threshold set by the new guidelines, Americans, Europeans and others in the West would have to slash their average sugar intake by about two-thirds.

Americans get about 13 percent of their calories from added sugar, or 268 calories a day, the equivalent of about 18 teaspoons. One teaspoon of sugar is about 15 calories. In Europe, sugar intake ranges from about 7 percent in Hungary and Norway, to 17 percent in Britain to nearly 25 percent in Portugal.

Some experts said the 10 percent target was more realistic for Western countries than the lower target. They said the 5 percent of daily calories figure was aimed mostly at developing countries, where dental hygiene isn't good enough to prevent cavities, which can lead to serious health problems.

Last month, a U.S. government advisory committee recommended that sugar be limited to 10 percent of daily calories, marking the first time the U.S. has called for a limit on added sugars. The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will take those recommendations into account when writing the final guidelines, due by the end of the year.

WHO had previously suggested an upper limit for sugar consumption of around 10 percent, but issued the 5 percent guidance based on the presumed additional health benefits from cutting intake even further, though it said it had no solid evidence to support that.

"To get down to 5 percent, you wouldn't even be allowed to have orange juice," said Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London who wasn't part of the WHO guidelines.

He said it shouldn't be that difficult for most Europeans, Americans and others in the developed world to get their sugar intake to 10 percent of their diet if they limit things like sugary drinks, cereals, beer, cookies and candy.

"Cake is lovely, but it's a treat," Sanders said.

The Sugar Association slammed the new recommendations, arguing the advice was based on "poor quality, weak and inconsistent data." It noted WHO itself acknowledged the evidence for the 5 percent target was "very low quality."

The International Council of Beverages Associations echoed those concerns and said beverage makers can help people cut back on sugar through smaller portion sizes, as well as no- and low-calorie drinks and providing nutritional information on labels.

Coca-Cola, for example, has been more aggressively marketing its "mini cans" and has launched a reduced-calorie version of its namesake soda called Coca-Cola Life that's sweetened with a mix of sugar and stevia, a natural sweetener. Companies have also been working on new technologies to reduce sugar. Senomyx, based in California, makes ingredients that interact with taste receptors to block or amplify sweetness. They have no taste or smell and are listed as artificial flavors.

Last year, the U.S. proposed new nutrition labels that would be required to list any sugars added by manufacturers.

Sugar is just one of a number of ingredients that have come under attack, such as salt and trans fat. However, WHO pointed out that when it comes to sugar, most people don't realize how much they're eating because it's often hidden in processed foods not considered sweet. For example, one tablespoon of ketchup has about 4 grams (1 teaspoon) of sugar and a single can of soda has up to 40 grams (10 teaspoons).

"If you do enough exercise, you can eat almost anything," said Kieran Clark of the University of Oxford in England. "But it's very hard to avoid large amounts of sugar unless all you're eating is fruits and vegetables."

Critical thinking challenge: What may make it difficult for the world to cut down on sugar?

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COMMENTS (53)
  • WintersS-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:28 a.m.

    I think that cutting down on added sugars is a good thing, but what I want to know is how are they going to stop people from adding it into stuff. I do think that obesity and stuff like that is a problem in our country but I think it has more to do with the choices they make not the food they eat. All in all, I think cutting down on added sugars is a very good thing.

  • BeckwithT-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:29 a.m.

    I agree that people need to cut down the amount of sugar intake per day. This could potentially save money due to the fact that some of the over weight people can't take care of themselves or need to be hospitalized. If we lowered the amount of sugars it would be a great. The only problem i see is that this could lead to anorexia.

  • SchopferR-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:33 a.m.

    It would be difficult to cut down on sugar because everything now has sugar in it. You would have to cut down on a lot of foods to cut down on sugar. Everyone has to eat you would have to stop eating a lot of things in order to cut down on sugar. There is too much sugar used in junk food that is unhealthy to consume often.

  • McConnellN-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:35 a.m.

    Why would you cut down the sugar intake, the people that are overweight is their fault, not the food. You shouldn't cut the intake for everyone even when they are fit and can still have some sugary foods. It's a treat, not a snack.

  • PowellWilliam-DiB
    3/10/2015 - 08:38 a.m.

    I agree that we are eating to much sugar. People are getting diabetes and dying from that. People also get high blood sugar. That's why people having a lot of health problems. We eat so much candy or items with sugar on it. Therefore, we should limit the amount of food we eat that has sugar on it. Even though sugar is good. It is also bad for you.

  • MaricleP-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:38 a.m.

    It would almost be imposable to get the sugar intake of Western counties to just six teaspoons a day due to all of the processed and fat ting foods in the Western counties. Also many people in this country do not get active enough and eat healthy enough to be able to become healthier. Many foods and drinks that have lots of sugar in them are some of the most ate foods and taking them away would be imposable for the country to do. This change would be good for the health of the people in the country.

  • JohnsonS-Tan
    3/10/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    I think many people in the world get too much sugar in their daily diet. I know that in one day I eat lots of things that are loaded with sugar. My uncle has diabetes and it is very hard to watch the disease slowly affect his everyday life. I think it's also hard to cut down on your daily sugar consumption because almost any food except fruits and vegetables has lots of sugar in it. Plus, a lot of people like sugar, and the portions of most foods are enormous. I think if people could start with cutting a little sugar out each day, eventually they will be able to consume only 12 teaspoons of sugar. I hope that some day it is a thing of the past to get diabetes or other health related issues because of sugar consumption.

  • JU00baseball
    3/10/2015 - 08:40 a.m.

    This all solid good information anout us being over weight. Most of all americans are starting to get over weight so yeah i do agree that we need to do somehting about the suger intake in our bodies. It will help make america more self reliable,

  • L.E 1999 blue
    3/10/2015 - 08:48 a.m.

    Sugar is not health but that doesn't mean that people can just stop mixing it with juice, or cake mix because not everything taste good without sugar. To me sugar is to make thinks sweet but at the same time it gives flavor to food even tho is not good for your body its also a lot of calories for your body but it make things taste good. With out sugar a lot of things in the world wouldn't taste good. examples: juice, cereal, cake, cookies, etc... there are a lot of things that do need sugar but some people shouldn't use so much of it to make things. So they wont have to be taking a lot of calories.

  • ContiMichael-DiB
    3/10/2015 - 09:27 a.m.

    People that eat too much sugar can have diabetes and high cholestrol. They can also die from having too much sugar. People don't watch how much sugar they consume.

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