SACN Report: Drastic Action on Sugar Consumption Recommended

17 Jul 2015

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) have passed on final recommendations to the Government relating to sugar and also fibre and wholegrains as part of their Carbohydrates and Health report. The British Dietetic Association is supporting the recommendations from SACN.

The British Dietetic Association, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,000 members. The BDA is also an active trade union.

Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

SACN has advised the Government to radically reduce the intake recommendation of free sugars in the population’s diet.

SACN has also advised the Government to increase the recommended intake of fibre in the population’s diet.

Free Sugars

Free sugars are those added to food (e.g. sucrose (table sugar), glucose) or those naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices, but exclude lactose in milk and milk products.

SACN has recommended that free sugars account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake. This is:

  • 19g or 5 sugar cubes for children aged 4 to 6.
  • 24g or 6 sugar cubes for children aged 7 to 10.
  • 30g or 7 sugar cubes for 11 years and over, based on average population diets.

SACN were asked by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fibre and a range of health outcomes, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bowel health and tooth decay, to ensure the Government’s position on consumption was up to date.

Through this review, SACN found that:

  • High levels of sugar consumption are associated with a greater risk of tooth decay.
  • The higher the proportion of sugars in the diet, the greater the risk of high energy intake.
  • Drinking high-sugar beverages results in weight gain and increases in BMI in teenagers and children.
  • Consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

As a result, SACN recommends that:

  • The average population intake of free sugars should account for no more than 5% daily dietary energy intake.
  • The term free sugars is adopted, replacing the terms Non Milk Extrinsic Sugars (NMES) and added sugars.
  • The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. fizzy drinks, soft drinks and squash) should be minimised by both children and adults.

Fibre and Wholegrains

The SACN report also looked at the amount of carbohydrates and fibre being consumed, and the link to health outcomes and recommended that:

  • The current recommendation that starchy carbohydrates, wholegrain where possible, should form 50% of daily calorie intake is maintained.
  • Those aged 16 and over increase their intake of fibre to 30g a day, 25g for 11 to 15-year-olds, 20g for 5 to 11-year-olds and 15g for 2 to 5-year olds.

Responding to the SACN Carbohydrates and Health report and the recommendations that are now with the Government, BDA Honorary Chairman, Dr Fiona McCullough, said:

“We have known for a number of years, and further evidence presented, shows that as a nation, we are consuming too much sugar.  The time is now right to address this issue head on and improve the nation’s health in both the long and short term.

“I also welcome the need to increase fibre in the nation’s diet. 

“Let’s make no mistake that the recommendations sitting on the desk of the Government will be challenging to deliver, but I can assure you that dietitians around the UK are up for this challenge.  Indeed, the profession has been at the forefront of many of the issues raised, such as adopting a policy in favour of taxing sugary fizzy drinks two years ago.

“The experts have presented credible evidence and the ball is now firmly in the Government’s court to seize this opportunity to improve the nation’s health.  While we all have a personal role to play in our individual health and the health of our families, we do need political will and momentum behind this.”


For more information / interview requests,
please contact Steven Jenkins the BDA Press Office on:0800 048 1714

Notes to the Editor:

  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.
  • SACN members are appointed as independent scientific experts on the basis of their specific skills and knowledge. There are also 2 members to represent consumers.