Sweet surrender: WHO urges us to cut back on sugar



Western Australia’s healthy lifestyle campaign, LiveLighter, has applauded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new guideline to limit sugar consumption, released this week.

The WHO recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of added sugars to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake. For additional health benefits, the WHO advises a further reduction to less than five per cent, which is approximately seven teaspoons of sugar per day for an adult.

“The WHO’s updated sugar guideline is completely warranted given the rates of overweight and obesity around the world, and WA is not immune to this epidemic,” Heart Foundation WA Chief Executive Maurice Swanson said.

Almost two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese. The most recent figures from the National Health Survey suggest that on average, we’re also consuming too much sugar, over 30 teaspoons a day. Much of this is sugar the body just doesn’t need.

LiveLighter has been at the forefront of encouraging West Australians to reduce their sugar intake, especially their sugary drinks habit.

“The recommended seven teaspoons of added sugar a day is not much. This is the equivalent of drinking about half a can of regular soft drink,” Mr Swanson said.

“Eating and drinking too much sugar, which increases your total energy intake, can cause toxic fat to build up around your vital organs and lead to cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

The WHO guideline does not include natural sugars found in fresh fruits and vegetables, or those naturally occurring in milk. It is the sugars that are added to foods and drinks that are of concern.

“It’s these hidden sugars that really add up,” LiveLighter and Cancer Council WA dietitian Anne Finch said.

“Added sugars can be found in many foods and drinks that you wouldn’t expect, and this is how we get caught out over-consuming the sweet stuff.

“Take sauces for example – a one tablespoon serve size of barbeque sauce has almost three teaspoons of sugar. That’s almost half of your entire day’s recommended added sugar intake.”

The news isn’t much better when it comes to those foods which are marketed as being ‘healthy’ options.

“A 200 gram individual tub of low-fat fruit yoghurt can have over eight teaspoons of sugar, around half of which is added sugar,” Ms Finch said.

“When manufacturers take out the fat, they often add a lot of sugar to keep the product’s taste and texture. The best choice is plain or natural low-fat yoghurt which doesn’t have any added sugar.”

When it comes to sugary drinks, it’s not just soft drinks that can be harmful to your health. Ms Finch said that fruit drinks often have added sugar, and sometimes very little real fruit juice.

“If you’re thirsty, your best bet is to stick to water – and have a piece of fruit as a snack. You’ll get the full benefits of the fibre and vitamins in the fruit, and no added sugar.”


Media contact:
For media enquiries please contact Elizabeth Palmer on 08 9382 5935 or Elizabeth.Palmer@heartfoundation.org.au.

The facts:
The below infographic can be downloaded in PDF format here.

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