Sugars in the diet should make up no more than 3% of total energy intake to reduce the significant financial and social burdens of tooth decay, according to research from University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The study analysed the effect of sugars on tooth decay, and shows that sugars are the only cause of tooth decay in children and adults. Researchers compared dental health and diet over time across large populations of adults and children. They found that the incidence of tooth decay was much higher in adults than children, and increased dramatically with any sugar consumption above 0% of energy. Even in children, an increase from near-zero sugar to 5% of energy doubles the prevalence of decay and continues to rise as sugar intake increases. Current guidelines from the World Health Organisation set a maximum of 10% of total energy intake from free sugars, with 5% as a ‘target’. This equates to around 50g of free sugars per day as the maximum, with 25g as the target. The latest research suggests that 5% should be the absolute maximum, with a target of less than 3%. The authors recommend a series of radical policy changes to reduce sugar consumption:
• make sure that fruit juices and sugar-containing treats for children are not only no longer promoted, but explicitly seen as unhelpful;
• ban vending machines offering confectionary and sugary drinks in areas controlled or supported financially by government;
• label food containing anything above 2.5% sugars as ‘high’;
• phase out all sugar beet production in the EU; and,
• develop a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, rather than taxing individual foods.