The WHO recommends that the average adult consumes no more than 50g of sugar (about 12 teaspoons) a day, inclusive of both added and naturally occurring sugars. However the average British adult currently consumed almost double that amount (23 teaspoons per day, or 92g).
The current Datamonitor Consumer report, Sugar Consumption in 25 Markets 2008–2019,suggested that sugar consumption was falling at about 0.6% a year. As a result, it estimated that it could take until 2116 for the average daily intake to reach the WHO’s recommended healthy upper limit.
As reflected in the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey data, British teenagers consumed the most sugar, said Datamonitor. Young people aged 15–19 were getting through 25 teaspoons daily, from sources including fruit, breakfast cereals, confectionery and soft drinks, it added.
Worryingly, the rate of decline in consumption was slowest among the younger generations at 0.5% per year, claimed Datamonitor. That underlined the need for greater emphasis on dietary education from an early age to help transform eating habits as they moved into adult life, it said.
However, while the UK figures appeared bleak, the British were far from the worst when it came to consumption, according to Datamonitor’s research.
Of the 25 markets covered in the new Datamonitor Consumer report, the UK falls outside the top 12. Brazilians were the biggest offenders, consuming a staggering average of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. In contrast, the Chinese could be considered the healthiest nation, consuming just eight teaspoons per day.
That said, Datamonitor warned that as the Chinese food market developed, the country could be poised to pick up bad habits.
“Whilst [sugar] consumption in China is currently low, it is increasing significantly as the Chinese increasingly adopt ‘westernised’ dietary habits,” said Melanie Felgate, food and drink analyst at Datamonitor Consumer.
“In fact, based on our predictions, Chinese consumption is likely to exceed the recommended 50g daily limit within the next 30 years.”
Despite this, changing consumption habits resulting from increasingly health-attentive consumers were likely to help speed up the decline in consumption over time, said Datamonitor.
“Our most recent study found a quarter of UK consumers to be very concerned about having too much sugar, and more than half (56%) were actively trying to limit their intake,” said Felgate.
“As they become more aware of how much sugar is really in their food and drinks, their consumption habits are changing. For example, there are people who are switching away from sugary fruit, towards vegetable-based juices and snacks ...”