Scientists are gearing up for a battle with the food industry after the World Health Organization (WHO) moved to halve its recommendation on sugar intake.
Nutrition researchers fear a backlash similar to that seen in 2003, when the WHO released its current guidelines stating that no more than 10% of an adult’s daily calories should come from ‘free’ sugars. That covers those added to food, as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice. In 2003, the US Sugar Association, a powerful food-industry lobby group based in Washington DC, pressed the US government to withdraw funding for the WHO if the organization did not modify its recommendations. The WHO did not back down, and has now mooted cutting the level to 5%.
“These are reasonable limits,” says Walter Willett, head of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. “Five per cent of calories is just a bit less than in a typical serving of soda, and we have good evidence of increased risk of diabetes with that intake, which of course increases with greater intake.”
But Marion Nestle, a nutrition researcher at New York University, predicts that grocery manufacturers are not going to take the proposal lying down. “If people follow this advice, that would be very bad for business,” she says.