In news that should surprise no one, the food industry — and its handsomely-paid lackeys — is not responding well to the World Health Organization’s proposal to halve its added sugar recommendations from ten percent of total calories to five percent.
As much as industry likes to spin and deny reality (many health experts who serve as consultants for industry have recently taken to social media to claim that sugar recommendations are “not science-based”), the research science certainly supports that proposal (the guidelines are based on a careful analysis of more than 120 scientific studies).
Let’s remember what happened eleven years ago when the World Health Organization “dared” to bring up sugar intake, via a Scientific American article from earlier this week:
“Nutrition researchers fear a backlash similar to that seen in 2003, when the WHO released its current guidelines stating that no more than 10% of an adult’s daily calories should come from ‘free’ sugars. That covers those added to food, as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice. In 2003, the US Sugar Association, a powerful food-industry lobby group based in Washington DC, pressed the US government to withdraw funding for the WHO if the organization did not modify its recommendations. The WHO did not back down, and has now mooted cutting the level to 5%.”
And here is a bit of good news:
“This time around, the WHO is taking steps to counter excessive lobbying. Anyone who wishes to submit a comment on the draft guidelines must first complete a declaration-of-interest form. And the organization says that it will stand firm against any push-back from the food industry. “If pressure comes to the organization, then we’re very well equipped to resist that type of pressure,” said Francesco Branca, director of the WHO’s Department for Nutrition for Health and Development, at a press conference.”
While the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association realize the need for stricter guidelines on sugar intake, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is sticking to its position paper from 2012 which states:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.”
The position paper recognizes that high intakes of added sugar are associated with “higher energy intake and lower diet quality”, but stops there. The Academy has a real opportunity at the moment to join other respected health organizations and support stricter guidelines. Of course, it’s certainly a difficult position to be in when the companies that are screeching loudest in protest about these new recommendations are the same ones who financially contribute to your professional organization.