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Published On: Thu, Sep 18th, 2014

Just half a can of Coke exceeds the new daily sugar guidelines

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Coca-Cola NigeriaJust half a can of Coca Cola will exceed daily recommended sugar levels if new guidelines – backed by experts – are introduced.

The new move would see the daily recommended sugar intake slashed to just 14g a day – the equivalent of three sugar cubes.

It comes amid calls to ban sugary foods from schools as part of a radical new plan to combat obesity.

Leading academics have said vending machines selling sweets and fizzy drinks should also be removed from public places.

They have also called for a ‘sugar tax’ to increase the retail price of sugary drinks and sugar-rich foods by at least 20 per cent.

Current guidelines from the World Health Organisation set a maximum of 10 per cent of total energy intake from free sugars, with five per cent as a ‘target’.

Free sugars are defined as those added artificially to foods such as fizzy drinks and confectionery, rather than naturally occurring sugars found in fruit.

This equates to around 50g of free sugars (10 cubes) per day as the maximum, with 25g (five cubes) as the target.

However new research from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has advised sugars in a person’s diet should make up no more than three per cent of total energy intake.

The latest research suggests that five per cent should be the absolute maximum, say the scientists behind the report.

A 330ml can of Coca Cola contains 35g of sugar, although the Diet Coke and Coke Zero alternatives are sugar-free.

Scientists claim the drastic step is needed to prevent soaring tooth decay and spiraling obesity levels.

Their findings, published in the journal BMC Public Health, analysed the effect of sugars on tooth decay – and found it was the only cause of such damage.

Current guidelines in the UK recommend that ‘added’ sugars – those used to sweeten food, fizzy drinks, honeys, syrups and fruit juices – should not make up more than 10 per cent of the total energy we get from food.

This equates to around 50g of sugar a day – the equivalent to 10 cubes of sugar for adults and older children, and nine for five to 10-year-olds.

But it is just those sugars added as a sweetener that count.

The sugars in milk, vegetables and fruit (not fruit juice), including dried fruit, do not wreak as much havoc on a person’s body.


Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (45g bar) – 25g of sugar, the equivalent to five cubes

Two McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits (31g) – 5g of sugar, or one cube

Muller Light yoghurt (175g) – 12.4g of sugar, or just over two cubes

McDonald’s Strawberry Milkshake – 62g of sugar, or 12 cubes

Galaxy Minstrels (42g bag) – 28.9 of sugar, or six cubes

Cadbury Twirl (two finger bar) – 24g of sugar, or five cubes

Kit Kat Chunky – 23.7g of sugar, or four cubes

Fruit P A new study by scientists at University College London has called for the daily recommended sugar intake to be slashed to just 14g a day – a 330ml can of Coca Cola, pictured above, contains 35g of sugar The two most common forms of unhealthy added sugars, are table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn-syrup – a liquid sweetener made from maize.

Both are added to countless foods, from fizzy drinks to ready meals.

In addition, the sugars found in fruit juices and honeys are also the unhealthy ‘added’ type.

The NHS Choices website suggests that food or drink containing less than 5g of sugar per 100g is classified as low.

More than 15g per 100g is high.

However, sugar is an important part of a person’s daily diet – it is the essential fuel that powers all the cells in the body.

But excess levels have been linked with raised levels of the hormone insulin, which increases the risk of diabetes.

In addition, the body turns excess sugar into fat, which is stored around the major organs, raising the risk of liver and heart disease.

Some experts also fear high-sugar diets may encourage the growth of some cancers. The theory is that glucose, one of the main ingredients in added sugar, creates repeated spikes of insulin.

Many tumours appear to have insulin receptors, hence a rise in this hormone fuels their growth, though studies have failed to explain why.

Study author Aubrey Sheiham, Emeritus Professor of Dental Public Health at UCL, said: ‘Tooth decay is a serious problem worldwide and reducing sugars intake makes a huge difference.

‘Only two per cent of people at all ages living in Nigeria had tooth decay when their diet contained almost no sugar, around 2g per day.

‘This is in stark contrast to the USA, where 92 per cent of adults have experienced tooth decay.’

To tackle tooth decay, the authors recommend a series of radical policy changes to reduce sugar consumption.

Co-author Professor Philip James, honorary professor of nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Our top priority is not to allow the idea of a magic single bullet to solve the problem to be developed.

‘There now needs to be an explicit revision of population dietary goals as it relates to every aspect of government policy.

‘We need to make sure that use of fruit juices and the concept of sugar-containing treats for children are not only no longer promoted, but explicitly seen as unhelpful.

‘Food provided at nurseries and schools should have a maximum of free sugars in the complete range of foods amounting to no more than 2.5 per cent of energy.

‘Vending machines offering confectionary and sugary drinks in areas controlled or supported financially by local or central government should be removed.

‘We are not talking draconian policies to ‘ban’ such sugar-rich products, which are available elsewhere, but no publicly-supported establishment should be contributing to the expensive problems of dental caries, obesity and diabetes.

‘The food industry should be told that they should progressively reformulate their products to reduce or preferably remove all the sugars from their products.’

‘New food labels should label anything above 2.5 per cent sugars as ‘high’.

‘Given the politics of big business, the most governments may do is to reduce the limit from 10 per cent to 5 per cent but our paper suggests that it should be 2.5 per cent.


‘There is a huge issue about how to curtail the flow of sugars in the food chain and divert sugar.

‘If produced at all, it should be converted into alcohol, as in Brazil, to be used as fuel for vehicles.’

He added: ‘A sugars tax should be developed to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks. This would be simplest as a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, since taxing individual foods depending on their sugar content is an enormously complex administrative process.

‘The retail price of sugary drinks and sugar rich foods needs to increase by at least 20 per cent to have a reasonable effect on consumer demand so this means a major tax on sugars as a commodity.

‘The level will depend on expert analyses but my guess is that a 100 per cent tax might be required.’

However, some experts have warned such drastic measures will not be feasible, branding plans to reach a 5 per cent target a ‘struggle’, blaming society’s reliance on processed food and drink.

Mel Wakeman, senior lecturer in applied physiology at Birmingham City University, said: ‘Although many large food companies have pledged to reduce the amount of sugar in their products, this does not happen overnight and we still consume too much processed food and drink to be able to achieve the new recommended sugar allowance.

‘I agree we need to cut our sugar intake but many will struggle to reach a 5 per cent target, never mind 3 per cent.

‘It is unrealistic at the moment to ask the population to have negligible sugar in their diet but the public do need help to reduce sugar intake from current levels.’

MailOnline has contacted Coca Cola for comment.



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