New guidelines from the World Health Organization are enough to kill anyone's sugar high. The UN health agency says the world is eating too much sugar and people should slash their intake to just six to 12 teaspoons per day—an amount that could be exceeded with a single can of soda. The guidelines released yesterday finalize draft advice first released last year and are focused on the added sugars in processed food, as well as those in honey, syrups, and fruit juices. The advice does not apply to naturally occurring sugars in fruit, vegetables, and milk, since those come with essential nutrients. The director of WHO's nutrition department says the agency has solid evidence that keeping added sugars below 10% of energy intake reduces the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
To meet the lower threshold set by the new guidelines, Americans, Europeans, and others in the West would have to slash their average sugar intake by about two-thirds, and some experts say the 10% target is more realistic for Western countries than the lower target. "To get down to 5%, you wouldn't even be allowed to have orange juice," says a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London. He says it shouldn't be that difficult for most people in developed countries to get their sugar intake to 10% of their diet if they limit things like sugary drinks, cereals, beer, cookies, and candy. The Sugar Association, meanwhile, slammed the new recommendations, arguing the advice was based on "poor quality, weak, and inconsistent data." (Read more sugar stories.)