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The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) final report on carbohydrates and health, published by Public Health England in July has led to new recommendations on how much sugar to eat.
We eat too much sugar. The recommended amount of free sugars in our diet has been halved from 10% of the calories we eat to 5% or less.
For adults that means no more than 30g of free sugar a day or the equivalent of seven sugar cubes.
Normally, we like things that are free but not here. Free sugars are those you need to watch out for.
Free sugars are two types of sugars:
But free sugar doesn’t include the sugars naturally found in whole fruit and vegetables and in milk and milk products like plain yoghurt.
If you think about all the sugar added to bread, cereals, biscuits, ready-meals, cakes, drinks and all the other processed food we eat, you get to seven sugar cubes quite quickly.
No. The report says only 13% (one in eight) of adults currently meet this 5% recommendation.
That’s probably one of the reasons why there has been such an increase in obesity. In England, for example, the percentage of obese adult men (BMI of 30 or more) rose from 13.2% in 1993 to 24.7% in 2011-13. Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as well as some cancers and other diseases.
Words on food manufacturer labels used to describe free or added sugars include:
Some sugars called lactose occur naturally in milk. These don’t count as free sugars. But anything added, like the flavour in a milk shake or ice cream does count as free sugar.
Understandable. A whole fruit itself does not contain free sugar. Nor does dried fruit as the sugar is still within the fruit.
But the juicing process changes this. You could say it frees the sugars up. (As a result they’re absorbed into the body in much the same way as a spoonful of sugar). So a fruit juice does contain free sugar.
Easiest way to avoid the confusion is to choose whole fruit over juices or smoothies.
Fruit yoghurt might include natural sugars from both milk and pieces of fruit but will include free sugars too.
The message is read the labels very carefully.
This 5% free sugar recommendation is part of a broader set of recommendations for carbohydrate intake. (Carbs are all sugars and starches). Total carbs should provide around half our energy and should include more fibre. The report recommends an increase to 30g of fibre (from about 23-24g of fibre in the previous guidance).
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Date of last review 18/07/15
Date of next review 18/07/18