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Sugar Guidelines: WHO's Recommended Daily Intake Cut in Half

By Michael Mullins   |  

New sugar guidelines from the World Health Organization announced Wednesday include a drastic reduction to the previously recommended percentage of sugar a person should have in their diet.

In an attempt to reduce obesity and the prevalence of cavities, WHO cut its percentage of sugar recommendation in half from 10 percent of a person's daily calories to just 5 percent.

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The new sugar guidelines were produced after WHO's review of some 9,000 sugar studies from around the world. The 5 percent recommendation does not include sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, but rather only those sugars that are added to foods and are present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices, The Associated Press reported.

"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in ... an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain, and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases," the WHO said in a statement on its website.

Sugar consumption is highest in the United States and other Western countries with America's sweet tooth increasing 39 percent between 1950 and 2000, according to the USDA. On average, Americans each currently consume approximately three pounds of sugar on a weekly basis, CNN reported.

"The less sugar you're eating, the better," Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California and author of a book about the dangers of sugar, told the AP.

"If the sugar threshold is lowered, I think breakfast cereal is going to have a really hard time justifying its existence," Lustig added.

According to the WHO, obesity is commonly linked to chronic diseases that account for more than 60 percent of deaths around the world.

The U.N. agency says much of the sugar consumed worldwide is hidden in processed food, with a tablespoon of ketchup alone containing a teaspoon of sugar, while a can of sweetened soda can contain upwards of 10 teaspoons of sugar, exceeding the sugar limit for a small child.

In comparison to the WHO's guidelines, the American Heart Association currently recommends that a woman's daily calorie intake should not exceed 8 percent sugar and a man's 9 percent sugar. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans presently get about 15 percent of their daily calories from sugar.

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