In less than a few second, Google is able to find 1.71 billion results when you search for the word “sweet”. Every year new studies appear that shed light on the effect of sugar’s consumption on the body; they delve into the mechanism from which the brain obtains its gasoline, glucose; or that suggest a supposed addictive power.
In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO), using the data available to it, launched its guideline on the intake of this popular ingredient in our diet. As usual, the main advice is to reduce the consumption of ‘free sugars’ throughout the life cycle. By this term, WHO defines monosaccharides and disaccharides added to food and beverages by the manufacturer or consumer, in addition to the sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and juice concentrates.
For both adults and children, the current WHO recommendation is to keep sugar intake below 10% of your total calorie intake and keeping it below 5% would produce additional health benefits. Empirical evidence collected indicated that adults who consume moderate amounts of sugar in their diet have lower body weight and that increasing the dose of sugar is often associated with higher weight.
New developments are expected
The WHO is reviewing a new study, which will lead to an update of the international guideline in the near future. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), based in Parma, Italy, has also announced that it will provide scientific evidence on the recommended daily intake and its effects on health from 2020.
The most up-to-date recommendation document, as explained by Alma Palau, Chair of the General Council of Dieticians and Nutritionists (GCDN), is a practical guide for infants, children and adolescents developed by the Nutrition Committee of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN). This report sets clear limits for the consumption of free sugar in children and adolescents: 5% in children over two years of age and the lowest possible in babies. It also offers advice applicable to all ages.
The ESPGHAN reminds us that exceeding the recommended levels presents an increased risk of developing overweight and obesity and is related to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as gastrointestinal problems or tooth decay.