LIFESTYLE

Recommended Sugar Intake Should Be Halved To Tackle Obesity, Scientists Warn Government

17/07/2015 12:09 BST | Updated 17/07/2015 12:59 BST

Less than a week after doctors showed their support for a 20% sugar tax, a group of scientific experts is calling for the government to halve the recommended daily intake of sugar in a bid to tackle Britain's obesity problem.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition, wants official guidelines to state that no more than 5% of daily calories should come from free sugar - the equivalent of around seven teaspoons.

According to the Food and Drink Federation, "free sugars" are sugars that have been added by a food manufacturer, cook or consumer and include sugars naturally found in fruit juice, honey and syrups.

Free sugars do not include sugars found naturally in milk and milk products or in fruit and vegetables.

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Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the SACN working committee, told the BBC: "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."

But not everyone seems to agree with the recommendations set out by SACN.

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A statement from Sugar Nutrition UK in response to the report, reads: "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.

"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.

"The practical impact of the 5% proposal is that consuming a 150ml glass of orange juice and a single piece of wholemeal toast and jam could take many people over the recommended level of daily ‘free sugars’ intake.

"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."

The organisation is calling for further evidence to demonstrate there would be no unintended consequence of this recommendation, particularly for those who are currently not over-consuming calories.

"We fully support effective solutions to tackle complex issues such as obesity, but these must be based on robust scientific evidence," the statement ends.

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Food And Drink With More Sugar In Than You Think

But Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, points out there is no suggestion that sugar can not be included as part of a balanced diet in SACN's report.

"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. SACN recommends a reduction in ‘free sugars’ in the diet as one way of lowering energy (calorie) intake to help reduce obesity," he says.

"The recommendation is also aimed at improving dental health. They make it clear that there is nothing specific about the effect of sugars when energy intake is held constant.

"We hope SACN’s key recommendations will be translated into meaningful and practical diet and lifestyle messages which are consistently used by everyone with a voice in the health debate."