Wish and Cook — Oct. 12, 2020, 10:52 a.m.

How to limit your sugar intake

High intake of free sugars is a public health concern, associated with poor diet, obesity and risk of non-communicable diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been recommending to limit this intake. If you do not know if you are consuming too much sugar or how to reduce it, you can find the answers here.

What is free sugar?

According to WHO, free sugar includes all sugars that are added during food manufacturing and preparation, such as sucrose, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, agave, dextrose, fructose, raw sugar as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates (1).

Why should we limit free sugar?

Dietary sugars in excess has been related with adverse metabolic outcomes via weight-gain through their contribution to energy intake. There is also emerging evidence that free sugar is associated with increased blood pressure and serum lipids (2), glycaemia and inflammatory markers (3), risk of dental carries (3,4), overweight (5) and cardio-metabolic risk factors and mortality (6).

The restriction on added sugars will ensure adequate intake of micronutrients and dietary fiber while supporting a healthy dietary pattern. Following the recommendations, many countries are trying to lowering sugar intakes in their population, especially in children (7).

What's the maximum that is daily recommended?

WHO issued dietary guidelines which recommend limiting free sugar intake to less than 10% of daily energy intake (1).

What is our daily intake?

In the US, the percent energy contributed by added sugar (without considering 100% fruit juices) was around 13% in adults and the highest intakes are 16% and 14% among adolescents and teens, respectively (8). In European countries, the sugar intake is around 15 to 25% of the energy supply.

What are the main vehicles of sugar in our diet?

In the industrialized countries, the highest source of sugar intake could derive from baking/confectionery products (like cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, sweet rolls and pastries), rich in granulated sugar and glucose syrup, cereal products and non-alcoholic beverages. Actually, sugar sweetened soft drinks are the main contribute of free sugar intake among teenagers (9) and flavoured teas and coffees were the most contribute of added sugar in adolescents, teens and adults (8). Other studies indicate that, in U.S. population (≥ 2 years old), soft drinks were the largest contributor of added sugars in the last decade, followed by cakes and cookies, fruit ades and sport drinks, sugars and syrups, and candies and gum (10).

How to reduce sugar intake?

Due to high free sugar intake and WHO recommendations, some countries around the world are introducing measures like nutritional recommendations (11), reformulating programes (as the Norwegian action plan for a healthier diet (12)) and applying tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (13).

Food reformulation in baked products to reduce added sugar intake

Once that cakes and biscuits as well as soft drinks are the main contributors to the significant amount of added sugar to people's diets, food reformulation of those ingredients has been an efficient effort to reduce dietary sugar. Free sugar has been substituted by low-calorie carbohydrates like acesulfame-K, sucralose and encapsulated aspartame or polyols (which provide both bulk and sweetness though less than sucrose) and stevia (the most studied non-nutritive sweeteners in baked products) (14).

Our website can help you find low sugar recipes!

While we cannot affirm that sugar is addicted like a drug (15), the truth is that the industrialized countries consume more sugar than recommended. To help you find low sugar recipes, we have a category in our website with low sugar content where you can find breads, smoothies and juices with low sugar content. Go check it out!

1. World Health Organization. Guideline: sugars intake for adults and children. World Health Organization, 2015
2. Te Morenga, Lisa A., et al. "Dietary sugars and cardiometabolic risk: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of the effects on blood pressure and lipids." The American journal of clinical nutrition 100.1 (2014): 65-79
3. O'Connor, Laura, et al. "Intakes and sources of dietary sugars and their association with metabolic and inflammatory markers." Clinical Nutrition 37.4 (2018): 1313-1322
4. Bernabé, Eduardo, et al. "Sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries in adults: a 4-year prospective study." Journal of dentistry 42.8 (2014): 952-958
5. Te Morenga, Lisa, Simonette Mallard, and Jim Mann. "Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies." Bmj 346 (2013): e7492
6. Te Morenga, Lisa A., et al. "Dietary sugars and cardiometabolic risk: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of the effects on blood pressure and lipids." The American journal of clinical nutrition 100.1 (2014): 65-79
7. Molander, E., et al. "Nordic nutrition recommendations 2012 integrating nutrition and physical activity." Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen (2013)
8. Bailey, Regan L., et al. "Sources of added sugars in young children, adolescents, and adults with low and high intakes of added sugars." Nutrients 10.1 (2018): 102
9. Amoutzopoulos, Birdem, et al. "Free and Added Sugar Consumption and Adherence to Guidelines: The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2014/15–2015/16)." Nutrients 12.2 (2020): 393
10. Welsh, Jean A., et al. "Consumption of added sugars is decreasing in the United States–." The American journal of clinical nutrition 94.3 (2011): 726-734
11. Erickson, Jennifer, et al. "The scientific basis of guideline recommendations on sugar intake: a systematic review." Annals of internal medicine 166.4 (2017): 257-267
12. The Ministry of Health and Care Services Norwegian National Action Plan for a Healthier Diet-an outline. [(accessed on 15 November 2019)]; Available online: https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/fab53cd681b247bfa8c03a3767c75e66/norwegian_national_action_plan_for_a_healthier_diet_an_outline.pdf.
13. Powell, Lisa M., and Matthew L. Maciejewski. "Taxes and sugar-sweetened beverages." Jama 319.3 (2018): 229-230
14. Luo, Xiao, et al. "A review of food reformulation of baked products to reduce added sugar intake." Trends in Food Science & Technology 86 (2019): 412-425.
15. Westwater, Margaret L., Paul C. Fletcher, and Hisham Ziauddeen. "Sugar addiction: the state of the science." European journal of nutrition 55.2 (2016): 55-69