Guideline: sugars intake for adults and children
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death and were responsible for 38 million (68%) of the world’s 56 million deaths in 2012. More than 40% of those deaths (16 million) were premature (i.e. under the age of 70 years). Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths (28 million), and the majority of premature deaths (82%), occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Modifiable risk factors such as poor diet and physical inactivity are some of the most common causes of NCDs; they are also risk factors for obesity – an independent risk factor for many NCDs – which is also rapidly increasing globally. A high level of free sugars intake is of concern, because of its association with poor dietary quality, obesity and risk of NCDs. Free sugars contribute to the overall energy density of diets, and may promote a positive energy balance. Sustaining energy balance is critical to maintaining healthy body weight and ensuring optimal nutrient intake.
There is increasing concern that intake of free sugars – particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages – increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of NCDs. Another concern is the association between intake of free sugars and dental caries. Dental diseases are the most prevalent NCDs globally and, although great improvements in prevention and treatment of dental diseases have occurred in the past decades, problems still persist, causing pain, anxiety, functional limitation (including poor school attendance and performance in children) and social handicap through tooth loss. The treatment of dental diseases is expensive, consuming 5–10% of health-care budgets in industrialized countries, and would exceed the entire financial resources available for the health care of children in most lower income countries.