A new World Health Organization (WHO) guideline released in March recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits, the WHO said.

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” said Dr Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. “Making policy changes to support this will be key if countries are to live up to their commitments to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.”

Australia’s Obesity Policy Coalition said that the release of the WHO’s guidelines around sugar has prompted a coalition of leading health organisations to call for a national strategy around obesity that includes policies to directly impact the amount of added sugars.

“While sugary drinks have to be the number one target to reduce our sugar intake, we also need to pay attention to the highly processed foods, like breakfast cereals and yoghurts which people often don’t realise are high in sugar,” Executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, Jane Martin said.

Most added sugar comes from the sugary drinks and highly processed ‘extra’ foods that make up more than a third of Australians diet.

In the U.S, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said that on the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, that it’s mostly unchanged from the reports of 2010 and years past, but that the changes are mostly for the better, such as limiting added sugars.

“Contrary to some media accounts, the pendulum is not swinging wildly back and forth on most of these scientific questions; the basic advice to eat less saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, is largely the same,” the CSPI said of the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advice.

The committee has boldly stated that a sustainable diet, higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods, is better for both our health and the planet than the current American diet, said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

The report recommends limiting added sugars to a maximum of 10% of calories and that Americans consume fewer sugary drinks. It also recommends adding a line for added sugars on Nutrition Facts panels, expressed in teaspoons as well as grams, and with a new Daily Value.