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Health

WHO cuts sugar recommendation in half to fight growing obesity, dental problems

GENEVA: The World Health Organization Wednesday said the recommended amount of sugar consumed daily should be halved as it stepped up its battle against public health problems like obesity and tooth decay.

The U.N. health agency said it was maintaining its 2002 guidelines that sugars should make up less than 10 percent of total daily energy intake but stressed that half would be preferable.

Cutting sugar consumption to just 5 percent of total energy intake would mean an adult with a normal Body Mass Index should consume no more than about six teaspoons per day.

That includes all sugar added to food and beverages as well as natural sugar in things like honey, syrups and fruit juice, WHO said.

“A high level of consumption of free sugars is of concern, because of its association with poor dietary quality, obesity” and the risk of noncommunicable diseases, the agency said in its draft guidance.

At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, not counting the large percentage of diabetes, heart disease and cancer cases attributable to being overweight, according to WHO numbers, which also show that more than 40 million children under the age of 5 are overweight.

Tooth decay is also a major, and very expensive health problem, the agency said Wednesday, stressing that treatment of dental disease costs up to 10 percent of health care budgets in industrialized countries.

“Much of the sugars consumed today are ‘hidden’ in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets,” WHO warned, pointing out that a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains about 40 grams, or 10 teaspoons of sugar.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 07, 2014, on page 13.

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