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The World Health Organisation (WHO) is rumoured to be considering halving the percentage of calories that it recommend people consume in the form of sugar – from 10 per cent to five per cent.
Welcoming the idea of reduced sugar intake, Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said: ‘Our dieting patterns have changed, there’s a lot more added sugar in our food. Certainly, (sugar is) associated with obesity, with heart disease, obviously with tooth decay… and obviously obesity is then related to diabetes as well.’
Of course, the amount of sugar that WHO recommends people eat and the actual amount of sugar that people eat are two very different things – and any reduction in advised levels may have a limited effect on sugar consumption.
The processed food industry is also expected to fight any recommendations to reduce sugar intake. Moodie predicts the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) which represents packaged food and drinks, as well as global food giants, would oppose any recommended reductions in sugar intake.
‘It becomes a giant food fight. They’re obviously against any form of regulation and always have been and are fighting this with us’ he said; ‘They’ve been major contributors to changes in our diets, sales are doing well, (they’ve) made enormous amounts of money. That’s fine, that’s their business. But now it’s time for our health, but also for the health of our healthcare system, because fundamentally we won’t be able to manage the problems associated with over-consumption of salts and sugar.’
Although some research shows that Australians are consuming more sugar than ever before, the AFGC claim changing consumer behaviour negates the need for revised sugar intake guidelines. Deputy chief executive of the AFGC, Dr Geoffrey Annison, said: ‘The overall sugar consumption of the population from soft drinks is in decline… …the consumption of diet and low-cal soft drinks has been increasing greatly over the last few years.’
‘The processed food industry has always responded to advances in nutritional science. For a long time we’ve had polyunsaturated margarines, we’ve had high-fibre breakfast cereals and low-fat dairy products’ he said.