Sugar and health is a topic that is surrounded by mixed messages and the Royal Society of New Zealand has set out to summarise the current evidence to remove some of the confusion.
- There is strong evidence linking sugar consumption with increased body weight as well as tooth decay.
- Many studies also show an association between a high intake of added sugars and obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and gout – however research to date has not yet fully established the exact mechanisms behind these relationships.
- No study has shown any negative effects from reducing sugar intake in the diet.
- The current discussion on negative health effects from sugar is mainly concerned with sugars, such as sucrose, that have been added by food manufacturers.
- Beverages which are high in sugar are nutrient and fibre poor, and can readily lead to overconsumption because they do not lead to a sense of fullness.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum intake of sugars of less than 10% of total energy intake for adults and children, and less than 5% for better health, excluding sugars found in whole fruits, milk and vegetables.
- Current food labelling does not allow consumers to assess how much sugar has been added to food and drinks, making it difficult to follow dietary recommendations and guidelines.