This is because it is difficult to work out from food labelling how much added sugar is in food and drink.
Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, President of the Society, said the Society undertook the review to help provide clarity around sugar and health, given the amount of confusing information in the community and media.
“With a typical can of sugar-sweetened fizzy drink containing nine teaspoons of sugar, and sugar added to a wide range of food products in New Zealand, including items we think of as savoury, it is likely that many New Zealanders are exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines regularly, if not every day.”
Current WHO guidelines put excessive consumption at over 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day for most people, although for better health the WHO recommends keeping sugar intake for adults and children to below six teaspoons per day. These guidelines don’t apply to sugars found in whole fruits, milk and vegetables.
Food labelling doesn’t allow consumers to easily assess how much sugar has been added to food and drink, making it difficult to follow WHO recommendations.
Sugar has come under increasing scrutiny as the understanding of how it is used and processed in the body has increased.
Research studies show that large intakes of sugar in the diet leads to weight gain and dental decay, and also associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and gout.
“There is still more research to be done to fully establish and confirm the links between sugar consumption and health impacts,” Professor Bedford said, “but there is a growing weight of evidence that the risks posed by excessive sugar in diets, especially added sugar in sweetened drinks and processed foods, need to be taken seriously.”
The Royal Society of New Zealand has published an evidence update, a fact sheet and a short animation based on a review of expert research.
The factsheet and supporting resources can be found at www.royalsociety.org.nz/sugar