WHO wants sugar consumption halved

It was great to hear during the chancellor's budget, that sugary drinks are being taxed. The government has finally recognised that sugar and sugary drinks in particular (which can have more than 8g of sugar per can - nearly 1 1/2 teaspoons) are harmful to your health. As many teenagers and adults drink sugary drinks on a regular basis, your total recommended amount of free sugar (30g for those aged 11+), can be reached pretty quickly.   

In addition to this, research from the organisation, Action on Sugar (www.actiononsugar.org), has revealed some worrying statistics about the amount of sugar found in many hot drinks found on the high street. Their research states the following:

Up to 25 teaspoons of sugar per serving: equivalent to ≈ three cans of Coca Cola

Further, experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have recommended that people halve the amount of sugar they consume.

A draft paper agreed by WHO scientists and SACN health experts have called for the current limit of 10 teaspoons a day of sugar to be cut to five (approximately 30g). The aim is that ‘free sugars’ should constitute no more than 5% of total energy intake.

A can of a fizzy drink, such as lemonade, could contain as much as 9 teaspoons of sugar. If you are wondering how much this is, then take your regular teaspoon (1tsp = approx. 5-6g) and measure it out, as you will be surprised at how much sugar is in your favourite drink.

Hence, one of the key take out messages is ‘don’t drink your calories!’. It is so easy to do.

A pint of beer or lager could contain as much as two to three teaspoons and a 175ml glass of wine over one teaspoon.

So, you can see how easy it is to consume too much sugar. But, what’s all the fuss about? Why is sugar so harmful to your health?

A lot of people will be aware that sugar is harmful and many may associate too much sugar with poor dental health. However, over time, too much sugar consumption can contribute to diabetes, which also increases your risk of heart disease. Further, too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and therefore put you at higher risk of developing a number of chronic diseases, including cancer.

The WHO document makes a distinction between ‘free sugars’ – those added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer – and sugar contained in fruit and starch, which are excluded. But sugars naturally present in fruit juices, honey and syrups are included in the guideline limit.

In order to lower your sugar intake, as well as limiting sugar rich drinks, looking at food labels on tinned and other processed foods will help, as the sugar content is normally included on the nutrition labels – such as 4.8g of sugar per 100g (so not far short of one teaspoon). Low fat foods that you think are healthy, may also contain high levels of sugars, so check foods such as flavoured yoghurts. Lastly, learn how to interpret food ingredient lists of packaging, as such sugar is frequently called by other scientific names, such as glucose, high fructose syrup and maltodextrin, to give you a few examples. You can easily find a list of names for sugar on the Internet and you will soon learn to recognise them while shopping.

The following YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEXBxijQREo, ‘How sugar affects the brain’ is highly informative and I urge you to watch it, as it explains how sugar can be so addictive.

Keeping a food diary may also help you realise that you may be eating more of the ‘unhealthy’ sugar-laden foods than you thought or that you are snacking on unhealthy carbs.

Lastly, if you still require further help, you could also as a trained nutritional therapist to carry out a dietary evaluation, as they will be able to work out from your diet history how to improve what you are eating and how to avoid hidden sugars or what foods to avoid or how to wean yourself of sugar effectively, by useful some simple tips and delicious alternatives to the sugary foods so readily available.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW15 & W1H
Written by Melody Mackeown, mBANT, CNHC, BSEM | Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach
London SW15 & W1H

Melody Mackeown, is a nutritional therapist who works in Putney and Earlsfield, London.

Whether you want to start a family, improve your mood, struggle with low energy, poor sleep or digestion or find it difficult reaching and maintaining your ideal weight, shouldn't you do something about it now?

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