SACN report

Sugar intake should be halved, says SACN report

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tipping the balance against sugar? Recommended daily intake of sugar should be halved, said SACN
Tipping the balance against sugar? Recommended daily intake of sugar should be halved, said SACN

Related tags: Sugar, Nutrition

The government should halve the recommended daily intake of sugar, an influential committee of nutrition experts has advised in a widely anticipated report.

No more than 5% of consumers’ daily energy intake should come from added sugar or ‘free sugars’, according to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). 

The committee – which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition – set out the recommendation in its final Carbohydrates and Health report published today (July 17).

Chair of SACN, Dr Ann Prentice wrote in the introduction to the report that carbohydrates should remain about half of daily energy intake, while sugar consumption should be halved. “Furthermore, SACN is recommending that population average intake of free sugars should not exceed 5% of total dietary energy.

‘The risk of dental caries’

​This advice, that people’s intake of ‘free sugars’ should be lower than that currently recommended for non-milk extrinsic sugars, is based on SACN’s assessment of evidence on the effect of free sugars on the risk of dental caries and on total energy intake.”

Prentice also wrote: “Following careful consideration of the evidence, SACN is also recommending that the dietary reference value for carbohydrates be maintained at a population average of approximately 50% of total dietary energy intake and that the dietary reference value for dietary fibre for adults should be increased to 30g/day.

5% limit on added sugar

“ ... ​this could go some way to addressing the significant public health problem of obesity”.

  • SACN

A higher intake of sugar increased the risk of higher energy intakes, she added. The higher the consumption of sugars, the more likely people are to exceed their estimated average requirement (EAR) for energy.

‘Problem of obesity’

“Therefore, if intakes of free sugars are lowered, the more likely it is that the EAR for energy will not be exceeded, and this could go some way to addressing the significant public health problem of obesity.”

The new recommendations mirror plans from the World Health Organisation.

SACN’s draft report​ published last year advised sugars should make up no more than 10% of energy intake, while the ideal target was 5%.

Nutrition experts have highlighted the importance of free sugars targeted by the report. These are all sugar types except those found in fruit and milk.

Professor Judith Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation and Food Manufacture​ columnist​, told BBC Radio 4’s Today ​programme: “What the recommendations are saying is we've all got to cut down so we're getting no more than 5% of our total from these free sugars.”

The main sources of refined sugars were sugary sweetened drinks and cereal, confectionery, fruit juice and sugar added during meals. One can of fizzy drink may include up to nine teaspoons of sugar.

Read the full 306-page SACN report here​.

Meanwhile, health campaigners have called clearer labelling of sugar and a tax on sugary foods and drinks. But food and drink manufacturers claimed the report contained “nothing new about sugar​.

SACN – at a glance

  • Government advised to halve the current recommended daily intake of sugar
  • Comsumers’ daily calorie intake should include no more than 5% of free or added sugar
  • Carbohydrates be maintained at about 50% of total dietary energy intake 
  • Dietary reference value for dietary fibre for adults should be increased to 30g/day
  • Sugar guidelines in line with World Health Organisation recommendations

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