As if keeping your sugar intake to only 10 percent of your total calorie intake isn't hard enough, now the World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending that we max out at 5 percent. [Tweet this news!] And that includes not only added sugars but also honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
After reviewing about 9,000 studies, WHO determined that the new 5-percent target may help lower rates of tooth decay and obesity in the U.K.
According to BBC News, Francesco Branca, Ph.D., WHO's nutrition director, told a news conference that the 10-percent target was a "strong recommendation" while the 5-percent target was "conditional," based on current evidence.
The USDA recommends that daily sugar intake not exceed 10 percent of total calories, and that includes added sugar such as sucrose, honey, syrup, and molasses. Naturally occurring sugar from 100-percent fruit juice, whole fruits, veggies, dairy, and whole grains are not included. And I can’t deny that many Americans are probably exceeding this and eating way more sugar than they should. However, simply reducing a number really means nothing in the scheme of things unless you address the eating habits of people first.
The big question is why are they exceeding the number to begin with? Are portion sizes too large? Are they not drinking any water? Do they overall choose an unhealthy diet because they predominately eat convenience foods and do not read food labels?
It would be helpful to educate consumers about the different types of sugar. Not all are evil, as the USDA guidelines point out. For example, low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese contain lactose, a naturally occurring sugar, and are rich in calcium, which is important for bone strength and prevention of osteoporosis, and protein. And all carbohydrates that we eat—including vegetables and whole grains—contain natural sugars that breaks down into glucose in our bodies.
Perhaps our messaging needs to start being more positive. Before we start saying what we should eat less of, we should focus on what we should eat more of. Maybe then we can begin to meet at least our current recommendations.