Study Examines Sugar in the Diet
By EMMA ROSS, AP Medical
LONDON - People should get no more than 10 percent of their calories
from sugar, experts say in a major new report Monday on how to stem
the global epidemic of obesity-linked diseases.
The study is the most significant in more than a decade on what the
world should be doing about its diet. Although concerns about sugar
intake are not new, very few experts have recommended a specific
The food industry immediately decried the document, insisting more
exercise is the key to ending obesity.
The report was commissioned by two U.N. agencies, the World Health
Organization (news - web sites) and the Food and Agriculture
Organization (news - web sites), and compiled by a panel of 30
The experts say heart disease, diabetes and other diseases that can
be caused by poor diet and lack of exercise are no longer just the
preserve of the Western world.
The report underlines what doctors have been saying for years - that
along with regular exercise, a diet low in fatty, sugary and salty
food is key to staying healthy.
The experts recommend one hour of daily exercise, double the amount
recommended by the U.S. government but the same as that endorsed by
And their recommendations on how much fat, grains, protein, salt and
fruits and vegetables people should eat also were in line with
But when it came to sugar, their advice was some of the boldest yet.
The experts said people should restrict their consumption of added
sugar - including sugar from honey, syrups and fruit juices - to
below 10 percent of calories.
In the United States, which leads the world in obesity, the
government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise only that sugar
should be used in moderation. The Institute of Medicine (news - web
sites), part of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (news - web
sites), recommended in September that sugar could make up to 25
percent of calories.
"There are very few international recommendations on sugar. There are
countries that are trying to develop recommendations on sugar, but
every time they introduce them, the pressure from industry-led groups
is very high," said Derek Yach, chief of non-communicable diseases at
the World Health Organization.
Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force and
one of the scientists on the panel, said the report presents the food
industry with one of its biggest challenges.
"Despite all the attempts so far to increase the provision of
healthier choices over the last 10 or more years, obesity rates have
accelerated," he said. "The food industry must now sit down with WHO
and others to work out how to seriously address this issue and become
part of the solution rather than remaining part of the problem."
Rapid changes in diets and lifestyles resulting from
industrialization, urbanization, economic development and global food
trade have accelerated during the last decade, the report said.
That has meant improved standards of living in poorer countries, but
also has led to inappropriate shifts in eating and exercise patterns
and a corresponding increase in diet-related chronic diseases, the
Scientists predict that heart disease will be the leading cause of
death in developing countries by the end of the decade. Obesity rates
are also increasing more rapidly in developing countries than in rich
nations, and two-thirds of the people with type 2 diabetes - the type
related to bad eating and exercise habits - live in the developing
The U.S. National Soft Drink Association said that a 10 percent limit
on sugar should not be part of the plan.
"A thorough review of scientific literature on the subject of obesity
shows there is no association between sugar consumption and obesity,"
said Richard Adamson, the association's vice president of scientific
and technical affairs.
"Study after study shows that restricting foods or food ingredients
won't work. In fact, it can create a 'forbidden fruit syndrome' that
causes individuals to gain weight," Adamson said. "Together, we need
to educate people about consuming all foods and beverages in
moderation and getting more active."
The Grocery Manufacturers of America, the world's largest association
of food, beverage and consumer product companies, also objected to
the targeting of sugar. It maintained that all foods can be part of a
healthy diet when eaten in moderation and combined with the right
amount of physical activity.
Starting next week, WHO officials will be meeting health authorities
from around the world to discuss how governments plan to respond to
the recommendations. A similar meeting is planned with food industry
officials in May.
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