It is not every day that a growing public health issue is flagged so profoundly to grab the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO), but that is what has happened with the increasing consumption of sugar in the Western diet.
This week, the WHO issued revised draft guidelines that now advise only 5% of a person’s daily calories should come from sugar, including foods with added sugar as well as foods naturally high in sugar (think honey). It does not include the sugar found in fruits.
This is the first revision of the guidelines in a decade, representing a significant step forward in the recognition of sugar as the primary driver behind obesity, dental cavities and other health-related diseases.
The new recommendation is half of what the WHO had previously advised.
The reason behind the drastic (but much-welcomed) revision is the obesity epidemic currently sweeping Western countries, where sugary soft drinks, processed sugary snacks, and high fructose corn syrup rein supreme.
Is the new recommendation realistic? According to the Associated Press, Americans and other Westerners would have to cut out two-thirds of their current sugar intake to comply with the guidelines.
The problem doesn’t just lie in the foods where the sugar content is obviously high however. Clearly there is work to be done on educating the masses about hidden sugars, such as the sugars in ketchup, which can contain as much as one teaspoon of sugar in only one tablespoon.
With a bit of hope, and perhaps a push, the new draft guidelines may prompt food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. This comes at a time where the FDA has announced new food labelling law, which will make it easier for consumers to locate the calorie count, fat and sugar content on packaged food.
The WHO has published its draft guidelines online and is inviting public comment until the end of March. If nothing else, this represents a massive shift forward in mass awareness of the perils of white poison in the Western diet.
If you are interested in contributing to the WHO discussion on sugar, you can do so via the website here.
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