Halve sugar in diet, say experts

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Sugar: there’s more evidence it’s apparently not good for you.

In a new report, the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says only 5 per cent of daily calories should come from what are known as ‘free sugars’, which include sugars found naturally in such items like fruit juice. The new recommendation is the equivalent of seven teaspoons a day for adults.

SACN were asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes – such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay – to ensure the government’s position on consumption was up to date.

Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the SACN Carbohydrates and Health working group, said: “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.”

Free sugars are those added to food (e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose) or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation says: “The evidence surrounding the harm caused by sugars is overwhelming and has been recognised for decades – this recommendation, while being long overdue, is most welcome and can make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people in the UK.

“Added sugars have no nutritional value and are not only the cause of tooth decay, which has seen hospital admissions among young children sky-rocket in recent years but is also a leading factor in general health conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

“One in three children starting school already have tooth decay which is a horrific thought. Added sugars have, for a long time, caused substantial damage to health, as well as place an enormous burden on already overstretched NHS budgets.

“The recommendations laid out by SACN give the government an opportunity to lower the sugar intake as advised and help put an end to our addiction and habitual behaviours and attitudes towards sugar.”

The dangers of excess sugar consumption have been in the news lately after the release of That Sugar Film, a documentary about sugar growth and consumption. Chair of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee Dr Peter Alldritt, who recently viewed the film, said it is essential viewing. “Even as a dentist with good knowledge of diet and sugars, I was shocked by the sugar content of some foods – foods that the average Australian would think are healthy choices.

“Although the impacts on oral health are not a major feature of the movie, the case study of a young man from Tennessee who drinks in excess of six cans of Mountain Dew a day is a startling example of the impact soft drink has on teeth and gums.”

Dr Alldritt concluded, “The ADA supports the overall health concerns raised by this film, which is presented in an entertaining and accessible manner.”

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