A coalition of leading health organisations has called for a national strategy around obesity that includes the impact of added sugar in Australian diets.
The latest call comes in the wake of new guidelines from the World Health Organisaiton which recommend no more than six teaspoons per day of added sugar.
“WHO recommends that added sugars make up a maximum of 10% of people’s daily energy, and ideally no more than 5% (equivalent of 6 teaspoons per day) for the biggest health benefit,” said the Executive General Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, Jane Martin.
“At present, we consume far more than this.”
Most of the added sugar comes from the sugary drinks and highly processed ‘extra’ foods that make up more than a third of our diet and are not necessarily seen as being ‘sweet’.
“While sugary drinks have to be the number one target to reduce our sugar intake, we also need to pay attention to the highly processed foods, like breakfast cereals and yoghurts which people often don’t realise are high in sugar.
“It is astounding that we do not have a national strategy to deal with the burgeoning obesity problem,” said Ms Martin.
The WHO guideline does not refer to sugars included in fresh fruit and vegetables and sugar naturally present in milk as there is no reported evidence of an adverse effect of consuming these sugars.
The sugar to which WHO refers are those hidden in processed food and drinks. For example, 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce may contain around 1 teaspoon of added sugar. A single can of soft drink may contain up to 10 teaspoons of added sugar.
“There are a lot of inexpensive and effective policies that the government could implement to reduce the sugar-coated environment in which we live – many countries are moving in this direction," Ms Martin said.
The Obesity Policy Coalition recommends:
- restricting the sale of sugary drinks in schools and healthcare settings;
- ensuring that the star front of pack labels are implemented widely for all packaged foods;
- restricting marketing of foods high in sugar to children; and
- reformulating foods, and taxing high sugar drinks