Less than a week after doctors showed their support for a 20% sugar tax, a group of scientific experts is calling for the government to halve the recommended daily intake of sugar in a bid to tackle Britain’s obesity problem.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition, wants official guidelines to state that no more than 5% of daily calories should come from free sugar – the equivalent of around seven teaspoons.
According to the Food and Drink Federation, “free sugars” are sugars that have been added by a food manufacturer, cook or consumer and include sugars naturally found in fruit juice, honey and syrups.
Free sugars do not include sugars found naturally in milk and milk products or in fruit and vegetables.
Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the SACN working committee, told the BBC: “The evidence is stark – too much sugar is harmful to health and we all need to cut back.
“The clear and consistent link between a high-sugar diet and conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes is the wake up call we need to rethink our diet.
“Cut down on sugars, increase fibre and we’ll all have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.”
But not everyone seems to agree with the recommendations set out by SACN.
A statement from Sugar Nutrition UK in response to the report, reads: “The conclusion in the report that ‘free sugars’ should not exceed 5% of total energy intake doesn’t seem to represent the current balance of scientific evidence.
“It is notable that the report itself finds there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to draw a conclusion about sugar’s relationship to weight gain or body mass.
“The practical impact of the 5% proposal is that consuming a 150ml glass of orange juice and a single piece of wholemeal toast and jam could take many people over the recommended level of daily ‘free sugars’ intake.
“We are concerned that the basis for the calculation of this 5% value is misrepresentative of the data and it is unclear how replacing energy from ‘free sugars’ with that from other carbohydrates would achieve the desired energy deficit.”
The organisation is calling for further evidence to demonstrate there would be no unintended consequence of this recommendation, particularly for those who are currently not over-consuming calories.
“We fully support effective solutions to tackle complex issues such as obesity, but these must be based on robust scientific evidence,” the statement ends.