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WHO: Only 5% of calories should be from sugar

spoon of sugar
LONDON (AP) - Just try sugar-coating this: The World Health Organization says your daily sugar intake should be just 5 percent of your total calories - half of what the agency previously recommended, according to new draft guidelines published Wednesday.

After a review of about 9,000 studies, WHO's expert panel says dropping sugar intake to that level will combat obesity and cavities. That includes sugars added to foods and those present in honey, syrups and fruit juices, but not those occurring naturally in fruits.

Americans and others in the West eat a lot more sugar than that: Their average sugar intake would have to drop by two-thirds to meet WHO's suggested limit.

WHO's new guidelines have been published online and the agency is inviting the public to comment via its website until the end of March.

Many doctors applauded the U.N. agency's attempt to limit the global sweet tooth.

"The less sugar you're eating, the better," said Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California and author of a book about the dangers of sugar. "If the sugar threshold is lowered, I think breakfast cereal is going to have a really hard time justifying its existence," he said, referring to sweetened cereals often targeted to children.

When WHO last revised its sugar guidelines more than a decade ago, it recommended sugar should be less than 10 percent of daily calories. The U.S. sugar industry was so incensed it lobbied Congress to threaten to withdraw millions of dollars in funding to WHO. A contentious reference to the sugar limit was removed from a global diet strategy but the recommendation passed.

Lustig said WHO's new guidelines could alter the food environment by forcing manufacturers to rethink how they're using sugar in processed foods like bread, soups, pasta sauces and even salad dressings. He called the amount of sugar in processed food an "absolute, unmitigated disaster."

WHO's expert group found high sugar consumption is strongly linked to obesity and tooth decay. It noted that heavy people have a higher risk of chronic diseases, responsible for more than 60 percent of global deaths. Dental care costs up to 10 percent of health budgets in Western countries and cause significant problems in the developing world.

WHO warned many of the sugars eaten today are hidden in processed foods, pointing out that one tablespoon of ketchup contains about one teaspoon of sugar.

There is no universally agreed consensus on how much sugar is too much.

The American Heart Association advises limiting sugar to about 8 percent of your diet, or six teaspoons a day for women and nine for men. A study led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published last month found too much sugar can raise the chances of fatal heart problems. Researchers found the average American gets about 15 percent of their calories from sugar, similar to other Western nations.

New nutrition labels proposed in the U.S. will also require food manufacturers to list any added sugars, plus a more prominent calorie count.

Earlier this week, Britain's chief medical officer, Dr. Sally Davies, said she thought sugar might be addictive and that the government should consider introducing a sugar tax to curb bulging waistlines; the U.K. has one of the fattest populations in Western Europe.

"We have a generation of children who, because they're overweight ... may not live as long as my generation," she told a health committee. "They will be the first generation that lives less and that is of great concern."


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lks1959 March 06 2014 at 12:33 AM

Nice to see the mainstream health folks finally catching up to what the serious researchers and nutritionists have known for years.

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Freedom Riders March 05 2014 at 4:35 PM

Although I know that food is a great cause for the "obesity" state our youth is experiencing -- I do not think that food should carry the whole blame. I ate my share of sweets as a kid and never was ever "plump" or any where near being -- and my daughter also when young enjoyed her share of sweet foods, however, she was not allowed to spend the day inside sitting in front of the TV , nor was I -- in the summer, outside playing was a daily occurance -- in the winter we were still active -- so I blame the lazy parents who instead of creating a love for activities has opted out of responsibility for their children by letting electronics take their jobs over -- the shame is not in the food alone !

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Bob Wood March 05 2014 at 8:04 PM

I love my sugar. Will be married 59 years April, 17, 2014.

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1 reply
PEGGY Bob Wood March 06 2014 at 2:49 AM

happy anniversary to you and the wife! Many years forwrd in the future I hope you both will see! XO

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msmary626 March 05 2014 at 4:00 PM

If the Who monitors our sugar intake, are the Rolling Stones in charge of how much meat we can eat? And is Aerosmith in charge of saturated fats? I guess Paul McCartney monitors the vegetables.

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Sandy March 05 2014 at 3:34 PM

Sugar is toxic poison....with a very good public relations agent.
When finally accepted as the dangerous drug it is, the world's health will increase dramatically

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zzyxx March 05 2014 at 8:26 PM

ok....you made your point ...now let americans decide what they want.

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jtlt March 05 2014 at 2:36 PM

Sugar is added to just about everything. I never understood this. I just got back from the grocery store and was looking for a turkey breast or a small ham. BOTH had sugar listed as an ingredient... why? Am I missing something?

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japatz March 05 2014 at 2:34 PM

Fat is you friend. Sugar is the enemy. Fat protects your organsand individual cells. Fat consumtion should be in moderation. Always eat real food, not processed.

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alsaxe March 05 2014 at 1:07 PM

since when does pete townshend or roger daltrey have the right to tell u how much sugar to consume?...

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charles000 March 05 2014 at 5:37 PM

According to this, I should already be dead and buried. Just for reference, I'm past 60, and no, I'm not obese by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, I do like sugar, preferably the raw crystalline variety. But the things I do avoid like the plague are fatty foods, deep fried anything, and nothing from a "fast food" burger pit.

What I'm suspicious of here is a sort of "sugar mania" that has been blaring out to the public, as a precursor for yet more taxes and restrictions . . . does anyone else here see something a bit wrong with this picture?

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