Sugar: Fact sheet
Sugar and carbohydrates are the major source of fuel for our bodies and brains.
But major national and international health organisations, along with governments around the world, have called for reductions in dietary sugar consumption.
What’s the concern?
Scientific data shows that higher sugar intake is associated with higher body weight – however, that’s linked to higher total energy (kilojoule) intake, rather than a direct effect of sugar alone.
This is a concern because higher body weight – overweight or obesity – significantly increases your risk of other medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
How does consuming sugar affect the risk of type 2 diabetes?
Generally, consuming excess kilojoules – which sugar can contribute to – causes weight gain and obesity which are significant risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
Although there is not enough data to draw conclusions, there have been some studies where people on a weight maintenance diet have had altered glucose and insulin levels when their sugar consumption was ≥18% of their total energy intake.
Does sugar increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?
There’s not enough scientific evidence to support a link between sugar consumption and increased blood triglycerides.
While high sugar intake – more than 100 g a day – has been associated with increased fat content in the liver in overweight people, this seems to be mostly related to excess energy intake.
Fructose is an exception: it is metabolised differently to glucose, and when consumed in high amounts, has been shown to lead to the production of fatty acids in the liver. Moderate to high fructose intakes of 50-100 g a day increase plasma triglycerides, a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.
How much sugar should we eat – and how much do we eat?
While there’s agreement on the need to reduce how much sugar we eat, there’s not a common agreement on how much sugar is recommended.
The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10 per cent of the kilojoules in our diet should come from free sugars.
The amount of total sugar Australians consume has actually declined – from around 22% of our total energy intake in 1995, to 20% in 2011-12.
Indications are that many of us do need to reduce how much added sugar we consume.
Total, free sugars and added sugars – what’s the difference?
- “Sugars” or “total sugars” refer to the total amount of sugars in a food, including the sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables and milk.
- “Free sugars” include all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices”.
- “Added sugars” includes all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to food by the manufacturer, cook or consumer.
What do the Australian Dietary guidelines recommend?
According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, a healthy daily diet can include sugar-containing foods in moderation, as part of the variety of foods and drinks in your diet.
Looking for tips to reduce your added sugar intake ?
- Make water your first choice for hydration
- Watch your portion sizes
- Enjoy treats in moderation and in smaller portions
- Reduce the sugar you add to tea and coffee gradually, so your palate can adjust
- Choose to snack sensibly – such as a piece of fresh fruit, a pot of yoghurt, some wholegrain crackers topped with avocado or a handful of nuts