Body & Sports

Eat no more than seven teaspoons of sugar a day: SACN

Updated: 2015-07-20
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The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommend free sugars account for no more than 5 per cent of daily energy intake. The move is vital if we are to try and combat spiralling obesity levels and stem the diabetes crisis, the panel said
Adults should restrict the amount of sugar in their diet to just seven teaspoons or cubes - half what is currently recommended, experts today advised the Government.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) said the move, which will mean a can of Coke is more than a person's daily sugar allowance, is vital if we are to try and combat spiralling obesity levels and stem the diabetes crisis.
Furthermore, reducing sugar intake for children will help lower the risk of tooth decay - the primary reason for children being admitted to hospital.
The advice considers free sugars, those which are added to food.
They include sucrose or table sugar, glucose and those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.
However, they exclude lactose in milk and milk products.
Publishing its final Carbohydrates and Health report, SACN, an independent body of expert nutritionists, recommend free sugars account for no more than 5 per cent of daily energy intake.
That equates to:
19g or five sugar cubes for children aged four to six years old
24g or six sugar cubes for children aged seven to 10
30g or seven sugar cubes for those aged 11 and over 
The Department of Health and Food Standards Agency asked SACN to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre, and a range of health outcomes.
They included heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay.
In its review of the evidence, SACN found:
High levels of sugar consumption are linked to greater risk of tooth decay
The higher the proportion of sugars in the diet, the greater the risk of high energy intake
Drinking high-sugar beverages results in weight gain and increases BMI in children and teens
Consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of type 2 diabetes
In light of these findings, SACN recommends the Government adjusts official guidelines, to say that for the average population free sugars should account for no more than 5 per cent of their daily dietary intake.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens today suggested retailers raise the price of sugary drinks and 'other nutritionally empty, health-destroying, entirely discretionary purchases'
Mr Stevens said a 'win-win' situation could see food and drink companies use the extra money to fund the National Living Wage for workers, 'taking pounds off our children's waistlines, while putting pound notes into the pockets of low wage employees'.
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.'
The SACN's findings mark the first wide ranging look at the relationship between sugar consumption and health outcomes in the UK since the 1990s.

Mr Stevens said: 'The evidence is piling up that added sugar and excess calories are causing obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
'Food retailers are now being asked to pay a National Living Wage to their workers, so why don't they partly fund it by higher prices for sugary fizzy drinks and other nutritionally empty, health-destroying, entirely discretionary purchases.
'This could be imaginative and genuine win-win - taking pounds off our children's waistlines, while putting pound notes into the pockets of low wage employees.'
 And the Department of Health today revealed they will be drawing on SACN's recommendations to develop future policies to address childhood obesity levels.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: 'This report confirms that, as a nation, we eat and drink too much sugar, which has a direct impact on our health.
'We are accepting the recommendations made in this expert report and the Government will be using them to develop our forthcoming national strategy on childhood obesity.'
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, acknowledged the new recommendations represent a 'huge challenge to the population, the Government and industry'.
But, he said: 'We must work together to find ways to wean ourselves from the sugar habit.
'One fifth of 10 to 11 year olds are obese, and almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and sugary drinks are a major contributor.
'There is nothing good about a sugary drink, particularly if you're under the age of 11.'
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said they are asking parents to 'take a big step to establish a lifetime of healthy eating habits for their children'.
She said they should aim to replace sugary drinks with sugar free and no added sugar alternatives, lower fat milks or water.
'Sugary drinks have no place in a child's daily diet, but account for almost a third of their daily sugar intake,' she said.
'Too much sugar leads to excess calorie intake, weight gain and obesity, itself leading to heart disease, some cancers and
type 2 diabetes in adults.'
Among the other recommendations, the SACN are calling for the  term free sugars be adopted, replacing the terms Non Milk Extrinsic Sugars and added sugars.
And the panel advise the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, fizzy drinks, soft drinks and squash for example, should be minimised by both children and adults.
The SACN also looked at the amount of carbohydrates and fibre being consumed.
They concluded:
The current recommendation that starchy carbohydrates, wholegrain where possible, should form 50 per cent of daily calorie intake should be maintained
Those aged 16 and over should increase their intake of fibre to 30g a day, 25g for 11 to 15 year olds, 20g for five to 11 year olds, and 15g for two to five year olds
The new recommendations come after SACN revealed their draft guidelines last June. Since then, their findings have been widely consulted on, with no major changes to the draft guidelines.
The new advise has been met with resounding support from charities and health bodies.
Campaign group Action on Sugar today called on the Prime Minister to immediately implement a sugar reduction target for food and drink of 40 per cent by 2020.
They also want a 20 per cent tax introduced on sugary drinks, similar to that introduced in Mexico. 
Professor Simon Capewell, at the University of Liverpool, and an Action on Sugar advisor, said: ' 'British children and parents are currently drowning in a world full of sugary drinks, cheap junk food and aggressive marketing.

But in some other countries, regulations and duties have successfully reduced sugar intake.
'Can the UK government now show that they are also genuinely committed to promoting our children's health, rather than supporting industry profits?'
Meanwhile the campaign group's chairman, Professor Graham MacGregor, added: 'These actions will prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes and will ensure the UK food industry leads the world as it has been doing for salt reduction.
'The food and drink industry does not want to cause any more harm to its customers; they are waiting to be told what to do and it is essential that they are given a level-playing field so that they are all working towards the same goal.
'This policy must therefore be enforced by a strong independent agency.'
Charities focused on the prevention of diabetes and heart disease, have also welcomed the new recommended guidelines, but there were repeated calls for the Government to introduce practical measures to help the public cut their sugar intake.
Among the suggestions put forward, were a restriction on marketing junk food to children and a taxation to make unhealthy food less affordable.
Louise Ansari, at Diabetes UK, said the charity 'strongly support' calls to halve sugar consumption.
'The high consumption of sugary foods and drinks is helping to fuel the rise of obesity and in turn, the rising tide of type 2 diabetes, a serious health condition that can lead to amputations, blindness and stroke,' she said.
'Almost all of us need to eat less sugar and drink fewer sugary drinks.
'We believe it's essential to couple this advise with support that enables people to actually reduce sugar intake. 
'We need a concerted effort led by the government to take active steps to help people reduce their calorie intake.
'This should include restrictions on marketing junk foods to children, legislation to take out fats and sugars in food and reduce portion sizes to cut overall calorie intake, greater investment to make it easier for people to be more active and if necessary taxation to make unhealthy foods less appealing.'
Tracey Parker, heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: 'The ambitious aims set out by the panel will require a concerted effort across the food chain if they are to make the leap from recommendations to reality for British families.
'We all have a role in improving the nation's diet. Consumers, communities, industry and government all have a part to play in meeting these new recommendations.
'In addition to the new guidelines, we should also bear in mind that balance and variety in our diet will continue to be good for our heart health.'
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