WHO sugar recommendations

WHO sugar recommendations: max. 5 to 10 teaspoons of free sugar per day

To reduce the risk of unhealthy weight gain and tooth decay, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to below 10 energy percent at all stages of life. The term "free sugars" is used here to refer to all sugars added to foods and beverages. But also those sugars that occur naturally in honey, syrup, fruit juice concentrates and fruit juices.

For an average adult (with a calorie intake of 2,000 kcal), 10 energy percent is equivalent to no more than 50 grams of sugar per day (about 10 teaspoons or 14 sugar cubes).

For children, the maximum recommended intake of free sugar - depending on age and gender - is lower. For adolescents and those who are active in sports, it can be more. For one- to three-year-old children, 10 energy percent is equivalent to about 30 grams of sugar per day (about 6 teaspoons) (calculated based on D-A-CH reference values for nutrient intake). For children 4 to 6 years, it is about 35 grams of free sugar per day and for children 7 to 10 years, it is about 42 grams of free sugar per day. For illustration, a glass of lemonade (250 ml) contains an average of 18 grams of free sugar. In the 1st year of life, the administration of added sugar should be avoided.

In addition, WHO considers a further reduction of free sugar intake to below 5 energy percent (i.e., no more than 5 teaspoons of sugar per day for adults) to be a reasonable long-term health policy goal.

Sugar is added to many foods in varying amounts, for example:

Food Sugar content
1 glass of lemonade (250 ml) up to 32.5 g
1 cup of fruit yogurt (package size: 70-250 g) up to 36 g
1 serving of breakfast cereal (30 g) up to 13 g

With our online tool "Food under the magnifying glass", consumers can easily compare the sugar, salt, fat and energy content of foods, among other things. The tool also offers practical tips and information on balanced nutrition. Information is currently available on infant and toddler products, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, dairy products, drinking cocoa mixes/drinking chocolates, sausages, pizzas, spreads, ketchups and other sauces, confectionery and snack foods. More information can also be found in the 2017-2021 Nutrient Monitoring Report.

World Health Organization study shows: Too much sugar in infant and toddler foods

In nearly 60% of foods and beverages marketed for infants and young children in Austria, more than 30% of the calories they contain come from sugar. This is the finding of a Europe-wide study by the World Health Organization, in which some 8,000 products in four cities in the WHO European Region (Budapest, Haifa, Sofia and Vienna) were tested for sugar content.

In three of the countries studied (Austria, Bulgaria and Hungary), total sugar content accounted for more than 30% of the calories contained in at least half of the products. In 4 out of 10 products, more than 40% of the calories contained were due to sugar. Only in Israel were the sugar contents lower, although here, too, sugar accounted for 30% of the total calories in 18% of the products.

Sugar is naturally present in many foods, such as pureed porridges made from fruit, vegetables or milk. However, sugar or another sweetening ingredient such as fruit juice concentrate was added to around one-third of the products (30%). Beverages such as juices and teas, desserts and pureed porridges made from fruit were particularly high in sugar.

For Austria, products such as fruit and/or vegetable porridges, milk-cereal porridges, menus with meat or fish, soups, yogurts, desserts, cookies, wafers, juices, teas, and other beverages marketed to children aged 0 to 36 months were collected from 22 stores in Vienna (supermarkets, organic markets, drugstores, etc.) between November 2017 and January 2018 and analyzed for sugar content. Our data collection also took place for the "Food under the microscope" project.

From the health promotion program "Eat right from the start!" health promotion program has been evaluating the labeling (nutritional values, ingredients, etc.) of complementary foods available on the Austrian market since 2010, particularly with regard to their sugar and salt content. Based on the results, "Quality Criteria for Baby Food Starter Products" were developed in 2016, which were agreed upon by the Working Group "Infants, Breastfeeding and Pregnant Women" (AG KISS) and the National Nutrition Commission. The criteria apply to porridges in jars as well as cereal porridges for mixing, which are suitable from the beginning of the 5th month and 6th month. They provide guidelines in the areas of "age suitability," "list of ingredients," especially sugar and sweetening ingredients or ingredients that contribute to sugar content, and "recommended use."

In order to support parents and close caregivers in the selection of complementary foods in the first year of life, if they do not cook themselves, the folder"Checklist for complementary foods" was created by "Richtig essen von Anfang an! For the introduction of complementary foods, it is recommended to avoid products with added sugar and not to sweeten them.

WHO guideline for free sugar intake

The guideline for recommended sugar intake published by WHO in 2015 is intended to help better control unhealthy weight gain and dental caries or prevent secondary diseases. The guideline is based on an evaluation of various scientific studies on the consumption of sugar by adults and children and the risk of weight gain and dental caries.

The WHO recommendations focus on the intake of free sugars of all types. These include glucose, fructose, sucrose and maltose, as well as sugars found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. On the one hand, free sugars are added to foods and beverages by consumers themselves (e.g. sugar in coffee, honey in muesli). On the other hand, free sugars of all sugar types are also found in many processed foods (e.g. ready-to-eat meals, soft drinks, cookies) and foodservice (e.g. sugar in desserts).

The WHO guideline does not refer to the natural sugars found in fresh fruit or in milk, but only to the free sugars of all types of sugar.

Sugar reduction tips

  • Reduce sugar amounts slowly and gradually.
  • Keep in mind that sweet foods can contain high amounts of fat at the same time, and savory foods can also contain a lot of sugar (e.g., pizza, ketchup, etc.).
  • If you prepare foods yourself, use sugar sparingly. A spoon or spreader can help when adding sugar to have a better feel for the dosage.
  • When baking, you can also easily omit one-third of the specified amount of sugar without sacrificing flavor. Just try it out to see if it tastes good.
  • Recognize and avoid sugar in prepackaged foods: Other names for "sugar" include sucrose, refined sugar, invert sugar, glucose (dextrose), glucose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup, starch syrup, fruit sugar (fructose), fructose syrup, fruit sweetener, malt sugar (maltose), milk sugar (lactose). Honey, syrups, thick juices (e.g. agave syrup), fruit juices, fruit juice concentrates, fruit purees and dried fruits are also sources of sugar.

Last updated: 10.10.2023

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