Worldwide intake of free sugars varies by age, setting and country. In Europe, intake in adults ranges from about 7-8% of total energy intake in countries like Hungary and Norway, to 16-17% in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom. Intake is much higher among children, ranging from about 12% in countries like Denmark, Slovenia and Sweden, to nearly 25% in Portugal. There are also rural/urban differences. In rural communities in South Africa intake is 7.5%, while in the urban population it is 10.3%.
On 2015, a new guideline of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. WHO suggested that a further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
The objective of this guideline is to provide recommendations on the intake of free sugars to reduce the risk of chronic diseases in adults and children, with a particular focus on the prevention and control of unhealthy weight gain and dental caries. This is in recognition of the rapidly growing epidemic of overweight and obesity around the world and its role as a risk factor for several chronic diseases. As pointed in this guideline, increasing or decreasing free sugars is associated with parallel changes in body weight; the excess body weight associated with free sugars intake results from excess energy intake.
There is plenty of naturally occurring sugar in the foods we eat ; even green vegetables like broccoli contain some sugar. However, note that this recommendation is about added or "free" sugars, not naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables. Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates, between many others (find the most popular names for sugar in the Need-to-know Glossary of Sugar).