Expert nutritionists recommend halving sugar in diet

  • In particular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages should be minimised.
  • SACN advises more fibre in diet by having more fruit and vegetables and wholegrain foods.
  • Starchy carbohydrates should still form basis of your diet.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advised the government to halve the recommended intake of free sugars to help address the growing obesity and diabetes crises and to reduce the risk of tooth decay (17th July 2015). Free sugars are those added to food (e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose) or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products. Publishing its final Carbohydrates and Health report, SACN – an independent body of expert nutritionists – recommended free sugars account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake. SACN was asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes – such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay – to ensure the government’s position on consumption was up to date. In its review of the evidence, SACN found that:

  • High levels of sugar consumption are associated with a greater risk of tooth decay.
  • The higher the proportion of sugars in the diet, the greater the risk of high energy intake.
  • Drinking high-sugar beverages results in weight gain and increases in BMI in teenagers and children.
  • Consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In light of these findings, SACN recommends that:

  • The average population intake of free sugars should account for no more than 5% daily dietary energy intake.
  •  The term free sugars is adopted, replacing the terms Non Milk Extrinsic Sugars (NMES) and added sugars.
  • The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. fizzy drinks, soft drinks and squash) should be minimised by both children and adults.

Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the SACN Carbohydrates and Health working group, said: “The evidence is stark – too much sugar is harmful to health and we all need to cut back. The clear and consistent link between a high-sugar diet and conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes is the wake-up call we need to rethink our diet. “Cut down on sugars, increase fibre and we’ll all have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.” The SACN report also looked at the amount of carbohydrates and fibre being consumed, and the link to health outcomes and recommended that:  The current recommendation that starchy carbohydrates, wholegrain where possible, should form 50% of daily calorie intake is maintained  Those aged 16 and over increase their intake of fibre to 30g a day, 25g for 11- to 15- year-olds, 20g for 5- to 11-year-olds and 15g for 2- to 5-year olds. SACN’s recommendations have been widely consulted on since publication of the draft report in June 2014. The consultation period resulted in no major changes and the report and recommendations have been passed to the government for consideration.