The World Health Organization’s new Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and
children recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life course.
In both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less
than 10% of total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% of total energy
intake would provide additional health benefits.
Free sugars versus intrinsic sugars
Recommendations in the guideline focus on documented health effects
associated with the intake of “free sugars”. These include monosaccharides and
disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars
naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
Free sugars are different from intrinsic sugars found in whole fresh fruits and
vegetables. As no reported evidence links the consumption of intrinsic sugars to
adverse health effects, recommendations in the guideline do not apply to the
consumption of intrinsic sugars present in whole fresh fruits and vegetables.
The recommendations to reduce the intake of free sugars and to do so throughout
the life course are based on analysis of the latest scientific evidence. This evidence
shows, first, that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight and,
second, that increasing the amount of sugars in the diet is associated with a
comparable weight increase. In addition, research shows that children with the
highest intakes of sugar-sweetened drinks are more likely to be overweight or
obese than children with a low intake of sugar-sweetened drinks.
The recommendation is further supported by evidence showing higher
rates of dental caries when the intake of free sugars is above 10% of total energy
intake compared with an intake of free sugars below 10% of total energy intake.
Based on the quality of supporting evidence, these recommendations are
ranked by WHO as “strong”: they can be adopted as policy in most situations.
Countries can act on these recommendations by developing food-based dietary
guidelines, taking into consideration locally available food and dietary customs.
Other policy options include food and nutrition labelling, consumer education,
regulation of marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages that are high in free
sugars, and fiscal policies targeting foods that are high in free sugars. Individuals
can implement these recommendations by changes in their food choices.