We live with sugar at the neck


We have more and more arguments to identify sugar as one of the current riders of the nutritional apocalypse. This is his success story and subsequent (and justified) descent into the underworld.


World Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases:

The recent position of the World Health Organization (WHO) on fiscal policies in food has not left anyone indifferent, especially the soft drink industry who watches with terror as it rains on wet again on the sugar planet. In a document of just 36 pages the WHO proposes among many other initiatives to increase taxes on sugary drinks in order to raise its sales price, at least 20% over the current one. It is necessary to emphasize that WHO places special emphasis on this amount (at least 20%) in order that this type of tax measures has a tangible effect on consumption trends since otherwise they will hardly influence the purchase intention. Thus, in line with its World Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2013-2020, WHO’s ultimate goal is to establish socio-economic contexts that facilitate better food choices for citizens; Discouraging the consumption of less healthy options while promoting that of those more appropriate influencing the price. But it is not just about raising prices to unhealthy foods. Many forget to mention that within these tax proposals, WHO is committed to the reduction of 10 to 30% in prices of fresh vegetable food in order to facilitate the consumption of fruits and vegetables. And all this considering that this type of measures should be part of an overall strategy, along with other measures,


For many of them especially for producers, this kind of report does not highlight what they seem to label as a new WHO fixation on the subject of sugar, a kind of crusade against this ingredient that today has gone from being one more stream, to establishing itself as a fashion that apparently has arrived to stay.

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Actually, the “crusade” or the “fixation” could be considered good, but not the novelty. In fact, it is in 1989 that the WHO’s first reference to the appropriateness of limiting the consumption of “free sugars” is contrasted in its report “Diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic diseases “. Already in that year, the WHO recommended not to exceed 10% of the calories of the daily intake in the form of “free sugars”. Without changing its message over all these years, and already in 2015 a controversial monograph especially dedicated to the role of sugar on health, WHO put again the warning sign on this ingredient,


What are “free sugars”?

Despite being precisely defined, the term “free sugars” does not end up being clear, at least as a result of its literal translation (” free sugars “). With little room for doubt, WHO specifies “free sugars” (those that should not be present in more than 10% and even better that they do not exceed 5%) as:

“Both monosaccharides (e.g. glucose or fructose) and disaccharides (the most classic, sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food and beverages by the manufacturer, a cook or by the consumer, or those sugars present in original forms in honey, the various vegetable syrups, fruit juices or their concentrates”

Thus, in a free but sensible interpretation, “free sugars” means all sugars that are added to a product, whether incorporated by the user himself with a gesture from the sugar bowl or those that the manufacturer can incorporate in the elaboration of any processed food. But in addition, WHO is also considered “free sugars” are those in which no “addition” are present in the food (honey, juices, etc.) thanks to its special availability.

On the other hand, it is especially important to emphasize that WHO distinguishes “free sugars” from the “intrinsic sugars” present in milk, fruits, and fresh whole vegetables. Thus, and in the words of the WHO itself, as there is no evidence that the consumption of these “intrinsic sugars” have adverse effects on health, when applying recommendations not to exceed 10% or even 5% Of sugars in the diet, do not take into account the sugars present in milk, fruits and vegetables when consumed whole and fresh.

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If you are wondering how much sugar is needed to reach that 10 or even 5% “free sugars”, I recommend you pay attention to the following figures:

  • Only one can of the “refreshing” drink of the brand best known by all contributes a whopping 35 g of free sugar, which amounts to 140 kcal and this in turn 7% of the mentioned calories in a standard diet of 2,000 Kcal.
  • A half-liter bottle of the same “refreshing” drink (a measure increasingly available to consumers) contributes the incredible amount of 53 g of sugar, which means 212 kcal and this, in turn, represents 10, 6%
  • And it should not be wrong, in the case of juices; the quantities of “free sugar” are practically identical to the aforementioned for the same volumes of drink … with the aggravating fact that being “juice” its consumption can be observed with greater indulgence.
  • A 200-mL chocolate milkshake, so typical of many children’s snacks, provides nothing more and no less than 24 g of sugar (and 146 kcal), which accounts for 9.1% of calories in the form of sugars in A diet of 1,600 kcal more or less typical of a child.
  • A serving of 35 grams of typical “breakfast cereals” can, in turn, contribute 14 grams of sugars, representing 3.5% of the calories in a diet of 1,800 kcal.
  • A 50 g ration (proposed by the manufacturer) consisting of 9 typical “children’s” biscuits at a rate of 24 g of sugar per 100 g of the product implies contributing about one-third (over 10%) of all sugars Recommended or more than half if we consider 5% as valid.
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