Researchers report breakthrough in the war on sugar

December 7, 2017, University of Otago
Researchers report breakthrough in the war on sugar
University of Otago research has created a method to distinguish between naturally occurring and free sugars and their role in our diets. Credit: University of Otago

Distinguishing naturally occurring sugars in a person's diet from those added as sweetener has been challenging – until now, thanks to a new method developed by the University of Otago.

Cutting the amount of free sugars we consume is almost universally recommended in order to reduce the risk of obesity related diseases and dental decay. Free sugars are often called , but the term free sugars is stricter as it also includes fruit juices and concentrates.

The World Health Organization recommends individuals reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake (about 12 teaspoons a day). Even more beneficial would be cutting free sugars down to 5 percent of energy or six teaspoons per day.

However, monitoring the amount of free sugars being consumed by the New Zealand population is not easy because they cannot be distinguished from naturally occurring sugars in a laboratory.

The University of Otago has put an end to that, though, thanks to research carried out by Masters of Dietetics graduates Rachael Kibblewhite and Alice Nettleton. Their work led to the development of a reproducible method for estimating added and free sugars in food.

Using this method they reanalysed data from the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey to estimate added and free sugars intakes of New Zealand adults.

They found the average estimated intake of free sugars was 57 grams per day for men and 49 grams per day for women (about 14 and 12 teaspoons of , respectively). Higher intakes, not surprisingly, were found among people aged 15 to 30 years.

When comparing how much New Zealanders were consuming in relation to WHO recommendations the researchers found that only 42 percent were having less than 10 percent of energy from free sugars.

Lead researcher, Dr Lisa Te Morenga from the Department of Human Nutrition, says added and free sugars intakes in New Zealand have been reported in different ways which are highly variable.

For example, when talking about how much added sugar New Zealanders are consuming some groups have reported data for total sugars intakes as a median of 120 grams per day for men and 96 grams per day for women.

"However this includes the sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables and dairy products – foods we encourage people to eat,'' she says.

Other groups have used trade data to estimate sugar consumption at the population level which gives even higher estimates.

"This new approach to estimating added and free sugars will enable us to monitor how effective new population-based strategies designed to reduce added sugar intakes are.

"It will also be really useful if New Zealand decides to introduce mandatory labelling of added sugars in processed foods.''

Explore further: Include 'added sugars' in overhaul of Canada's food labels

More information: Rachael Kibblewhite et al. Estimating Free and Added Sugar Intakes in New Zealand, Nutrients (2017). DOI: 10.3390/nu9121292

Related Stories

Include 'added sugars' in overhaul of Canada's food labels

March 14, 2016
Canada's overhaul of food labels should include a separate 'added sugar' column to help Canadians manage their sugar intake and be in line with US standards, states a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended levels of sugar halved

March 7, 2014
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has halved its recommended levels of sugar intake, thanks to a study carried out by Newcastle University academics.

Proposed label would tell how much added sugar to eat

July 24, 2015
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed that nutrition facts labels include the percentage of a person's recommended daily intake of added sugars in a food item—the "percent daily value."

Two-thirds of packaged foods and drinks in Canada have added sugars

January 12, 2017
An analysis of over 40,000 commonly available packaged foods and beverages in Canada has found that 66 per cent of these products - including some infant formulas and baby food products and many so-called 'healthier' foods ...

Study reveals Australian children overdosing on sugar

October 19, 2012
More than half of young Australians are consuming too much sugar, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney.

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.