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Sugar Consumption Trends in Australia and New Zealand

News Item

posted by Research Admin 1 on 7 March 2019



Sugar Research Advisory Service, News release, February, 2019

There is a lot of talk about the risks of overconsumption of added sugars in foods, but how much exactly is too much? How much are we eating and which foods are they coming from? Who are those most likely to be eating too much? How do we meet intake recommendations?

Sugars intake recommendations

Recommendations on sugars focus on added sugars and or free sugars. Although they may sound similar they are defined differently. Free sugars include fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates, whereas added sugars usually do not.

The Dietary Guidelines for Australians say “Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.” This is a food-based (rather than nutrient-based) guideline, consistent with the overall approach of the revised guidelines.

The advice is based on a ‘probable association’ between sugary beverages and the increased risk of weight gain, and a ‘suggestive association’ for the remainder of health associations.

The New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines say to “choose and prepare food and drinks with little or no added sugars”. This advice is based on a combination of dietary guidelines from around the world. It largely reflects the relationship between sugars and body weight and non-communicable diseases, WHO advice (see below), evidence on empty kilojoules, and data which shows 30% men and 17% women consume sugary beverages or energy drinks >3 times/week.

Across the globe there are a variety of recommendations on sugars, added/free sugars. The most well-known is that of the World Health Organisation (WHO).  The 2015 Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children recommended that free sugars* intake (see definition below) should be less than 10% total energy. This was based on moderate quality evidence for a positive relationship between free sugars intake and dental caries, as seen in observational studies.

*The WHO free sugars definition includes fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates as well as added sugars.

The 10% limit can be calculated to 50g a day (12 teaspoons) for the average women and 60g (14 teaspoons) for men based on average energy requirements. Note the WHO recommendations were derived as average population intakes and are not specifically for individuals.

The WHO report made an additional, conditional recommendation to lower intakes of free sugars further to 5% of total energy intake. This recommendation is based on ecological studies that are considered very low-quality evidence. There is less certainty about the balance between the benefits and harms of implementing this conditional recommendation and WHO note it requires substantial debate and stakeholder involvement for translation into action. Currently only about 12% of New Zealanders and 10% Australians meet this recommendation.

How much sugar are we eating now? To find out, go to: