People urged to limit sugar
TORONTO—The World Health Organization again is urging people to lower the amount of sugar they eat, suggesting there are health benefits to restricting so-called free sugars to less than five percent of one’s dietary intake.
For the average adult, that would be about six teaspoons (30 ml) of sugar a day—less than the sugar contained in a single can of sugar-sweetened soda.
In draft recommendations issued yesterday, the Geneva-based global health agency reaffirmed the advisability of limiting one’s intake of sugar to no more than 10 percent of one’s daily calorie intake.
But it said if people could get to five percent, that would be better.
“The five percent would probably be the ideal one and the 10 percent is the more realistic one,” Branca said in a teleconference for journalists.
Both likely would be a stretch for many Canadians.
And experts acknowledged it likely would take a seismic shift in food formulation and consumption patterns in a country like Canada for most people to be able to reach the five percent target.
The goal would be unreachable for people who eat out or rely on prepared or processed foods as a regular part of their diets, said Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an Ottawa-based obesity expert.
“Five’s a really small number,” he admitted.
“The likelihood of anybody getting down to five in this environment without cooking everything entirely from scratch is very, very low.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to give the suggestion that we should be aiming low,” Freedhoff added.
“It just means that the likelihood of anybody getting there is not particularly high.”
That’s because sugars are added to many foods—everything from breakfast cereals to fruit and energy drinks, sauces, baked goods, and condiments.
A tablespoon (15 ml) of ketchup, for instance, contains about one teaspoon (five ml) of sugar.
In addition to being ubiquitous, free sugars have many names—molasses, sucrose, fructose, anhydrous dextrose, malt syrup, and honey, to name just some.
Some labels might list “raisin puree” or added juices.
So spotting exactly how much added sugar prepared foods contain is no easy thing.
Statistics Canada does not have data that teases out what proportion of Canadians’ calorie intake comes from free sugars versus intrinsic sugars.
Free sugars are sugars added to foods by manufacturers, cooks, or the people eating the food—brown sugar sprinkled on oatmeal, for example—as well as natural sugars found in fruit juices, honey, syrups, and molasses.
Intrinsic sugars are the sugars in whole foods like fruit.
Intrinsic sugars are not included in the WHO intake limit recommendations; these are sugars locked into whole foods, such as a piece of fruit.
So the sugar in an orange is intrinsic.
The sugar in orange juice, however—even freshly-squeezed in your kitchen—is free sugar.