More than half of us are exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended daily intake of added sugars according to a new University of Sydney study examining Australia’s sugar intake.
Fifty five per cent of participants in the study consumed over the recommended 10 per cent of daily energy from added sugar, honey and syrups, and sugar in fruit juice, defined as ‘free sugars’ by WHO.
The research, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reveals especially bad habits in children and adolescents, with 76 per cent of those aged 9-13 years exceeding the guidelines for daily sugar intake.
The study is based on a 24 hour recall of eating habits from a representative sample of over 8000 participants in the most recent 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey.
Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Timothy Gill said this and other recent studies show disturbing trends in adolescent eating patterns.
“Whilst we have seen some improvements in the diets of young children, older teens and males in particular are consuming a large amount of added sugar from products such as soft drinks,” said Professor Gill.
“This is particularly concerning as these foods not only add a lot of calories and provide little or no nutrition, but they also displace more nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits or milk which are important for teenagers in this stage of rapid development.”
Lead author and dietician Dr Jimmy Louie said on a whole the study’s results aren’t dissimilar to the last analysis based on the 1995 National Nutrition Survey.
“It’s concerning that we haven’t seen much of a decline in the percentage of energy from added sugar among Australians between 1995 and 2012,” said Dr Louie, Honorary Associate in the Sydney Medical School.
“For a long time we criticised food manufacturers for producing core foods like bread, yoghurt and breakfast cereal high in added sugar, but this study shows that up to 80 to 90 per cent of our added sugar intake is coming from what should be occasional food or treats.
“As such the focus of public health programs going forward should be on limiting foods like soft drinks and cakes, and encouraging people to swap them for better choices.”
University of Sydney experts have commented on the UK Government’s decision to put a levy on sugar-containing beverages in a bid to reduce childhood obesity.
Soft drink consumption increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Does Australia need a sugar tax too, asks Dr Belinda Reeve.
Representatives from 25 Australian universities have joined together to form the Australian Health Promoting Universities Network, which will see them work collaboratively to create healthier university campuses and communities.