LONDON Sugar should account for less than 5.0 percent of what people eat each day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain and tooth decay linked to excessively sugary diets, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday.
Issuing new draft sugar guidelines, the United Nations health agency said its recommendations were based on "the totality of evidence regarding the relationship between free sugars intake and body weight and dental caries".
Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
"WHO recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life-course," the agency said in a statement.
It said the 5.0 percent level should be a target for people to aim for - calling it a "conditional recommendation" - but also reiterated a "strong recommendation" that sugar should account for no more that 10 percent of total energy intake.
"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars - particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages - increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories," the WHO statement said.
This can lead "to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer)."
Five percent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Jon Boyle)