The World Health Organisation has published guidelines for intake of added sugar. The guideline recommends that adults and children take in less than 10% of their daily energy intake from added sugars.

10% of energy intake is still a significant amount of sugar. For example, in a 2,000 calorie diet, 10% of energy intake would equate to 50g of added sugar. This is more than 12 sugar cubes and more than the amount of sugar found in a 16oz bottle of cola.

The guidelines also includes a ‘conditional recommendation’ of aiming to take in less than 5% of energy intake as added sugars. The WHO has listed this as conditional on the basis that not strong enough evidence is not available to justify a limit of 5%.

The guidelines have been put in place to help address the high rates of obesity and of type 2 diabetes in the modern world.

Empty calories

Given that added sugars are ‘empty calories’, that is they provide energy, and raise blood sugar levels, without providing any other form of nutrition, it makes sense for people with diabetes to try and aim for the stricter target of less than 5% of energy coming from added sugars.

Note that the guidelines are for added sugars and do not include natural sources of sugar as found in fruits and milk. Note that some fruit juices and milk products such as yoghurts may contain added sugars in addition to the natural source of sugar. If sugars have been added, it should be included in the ingredients list either as sugar or a form of sugar such as syrup, glucose, dextrose etc.

Hidden sugars

Whilst some sources of sugars are obvious, such as those found in sweetened drinks, desserts and candy, sugar is also added to many processed food products such as sauces, bread, soups and even processed meat.

In August, the FDA proposed new changes to Nutrition Facts labels which would mean that added food manufacturers would need to include how much added sugars are included within each product. If the changes go ahead, it will help consumers to see exactly how much sugar is being artificially added to foods.