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UK advisory body urges 50% cut in consumption of free sugar

In a long-awaited report, the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has ditched a 10% upper limit on sugar intake instead recommending that less than 5% of daily energy should come from free sugars.

After seven years of deliberation, the SACN committee issued its final report on carbohydrates today, including sugars in people’s diets. 

Unlike the draft report, issued in 2014 , the final SACN paper has done away with a recommendation that 10% of total energy intake is an acceptable upper limit for added sugar – instead backing a reduction to 5% of total energy intake. 

The report also advised that children and adults should increase the amount of fibre in their diet by eating more fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods. 

In the 2014 draft, SACN suggested a level of 10% of dietary energy from free sugars (70g/day for men and 50g/day for women) was an upper target at an individual level, but also concluded that on a population level it was aiming for 5%.

The SACN committee is understood to have been concerned that this would send mixed messages to the public and has now removed mentions of 10% – much to the dismay of members of the food industry.

Indeed, industry bodies Sugar Nutrition UK, AB Sugar, and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have questioned the new conclusions – which single out sugar-sweetened beverages as a leading cause of obesity and diabetes.

“The conclusion in the report that ‘free sugars’ should not exceed 5% of total energy intake doesn’t seem to represent the current balance of scientific evidence,” said Dr Alison Boyd, Director, Sugar Nutrition UK. “It is notable that the report itself finds there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to draw a conclusion about sugar’s relationship to weight gain or body mass,” she added. 

“We are concerned that the basis for the calculation of this 5% value is misrepresentative of the data and it is unclear how replacing energy from ‘free sugars’ with that from other carbohydrates would achieve the desired energy deficit,” she added.

However, Professor Brian Ratcliffe, from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, said the findings of the report “reflect the accumulating evidence that added sugars contribute to excessive energy intakes leading to weight gain and obesity, and that higher intakes of dietary fibre are associated with better health and life expectancy.”

“This is a welcome contribution to clarifying recommendations for public health nutrition,” said Ratcliffe.

Meanwhile, Ian Wright, director general of the FDF warned that demonising any one ingredient in the obesity debate isn’t helpful: “The report confirms what we already know – that sugars are a contributing factor to tooth decay and if consumed in excess can lead to weight gain,” he said.

Health experts and campaigners welcomed the recommendations, adding that it is time for stronger leadership in the fight against obesity and diabetes, and warning that industry must do more to cut out ‘unnecessary’ sugars in foods and drinks…. Read the full article

 Additional reading:

Industry: SACN report says ‘nothing new’

There’s “nothing new about sugar” in the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN’s) report on carbohydrates, but more needs to be done to increase fibre intake, food and drink manufacturing leaders have said.

Consumers should be in no doubt that sugars can be enjoyed as part of a varied diet, Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright said following the publication of the final report today (July17).

“The report confirms what we already know – that sugars are a contributing factor to tooth decay and if consumed in excess, can lead to weight gain,” he added. “SACN recommends the reduction of ‘free sugars’ in the diet as one way of lowering energy intake to help reduce obesity.”

Industry had already been working hard to lower calories in food and drink, including reducing sugars and offering more portions sizes, Wright said…