Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Sweet enough? Separating fact from fiction in the sugar debate

By Chris Forbes-Ewan

What is the scientific evidence for reducing the WHO's recommended maximum sugar intake?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Forget lemon detox diets and soup fasts, sugar-free was the fad diet choice of 2013. But while it’s wise to limit the foods and drinks you consume that contain added sugars, this doesn’t mean you need to eliminate sugars from your diet altogether.

In 2003 the World Health Organisation (WHO) considered recommending limiting intake of “free sugars” to 10% of total energy intake. Free sugars are sugars added to the food by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

Although this recommendation was based largely on the well-established relationship between sugars and dental health, the evidence available in 2003 suggested that, at least when consumed in liquid foods, sugars may also contribute to obesity.

The US sugar lobby argued tenaciously against the recommendation, to the point where it was accused of adopting similar tactics to those used by the tobacco lobby a few decades previously. To its credit, the WHO held firm and the 10% limit was recommended.

A recent report in the UK press suggests that the WHO is considering halving its recommended maximum intake of free sugars to 5% of total energy. This is based on recent evidence that, it is claimed, implicates sugars in the onset of heart disease and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.