CUT YOUR SUGAR INTAKE BY HALF; Only One Fizzy Drink a Day Is Too Much for Your Child, Says World Health Organisation as Experts Warn of 'Hidden' Sugar in Our Food; Cull the Sugary Snacks; Stop Your Children Becoming Obese by Cutting out Fizzy Drinks and Sugar-Rich Processed Foods, Advise Diet Experts from WHO

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Byline: Leah McDonald

JUST one can of a fizzy drink has more sugar than a child should take in a day, the World Health Organisation has warned.

The global health body yesterday warned that both adults and children must cut their sugar intake in half - to help fight the obesity crisis.

The international experts have been forced to drastically alter their guidelines because of growing concern over obesity and the numerous illnesses, such as heart disease, it causes.

They have warned that sugar has become the new tobacco - causing millions to die prematurely worldwide. Adults of normal weight should aim to eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day - half of the current average intake. However, a major concern is not just sweets but the 'hidden' sugar content in so many processed foods that people do not realise they are taking. Health Minister James Reilly has yet to act on a promise to introduce a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and to have healthy foods in school vending machines.

The WHO said obesity was being fuelled by the high levels of hidden sugar in fizzy drinks, smoothies and processed foods such as ketchup.

Current guidelines from the health organisation state that sugars should make up less than 10 per cent of total energy intake per day for adults and children. However, experts believe slashing this to 5 per cent a day would be 'ideal'.

In new draft guidelines published yesterday, the WHO said adults of normal weight should aim to eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day - half of the amount of sugar they are currently consuming on average - to avoid obesity, heart disease and other deadly illnesses. The guidelines would mean that children should not be given cans of fizzy drinks as in some cases they contain more sugar than their safe daily limit, the WHO said.

It said the aim for children should also be less than six teaspoons of sugar daily.

Among the foods with hidden high sugar content are tomato sauce, one tablespoon of which contains around one teaspoon of sugar.

A single can of a sugar-sweetened soft drink contains up to 40 grams, which is around ten teaspoons.

A recent survey, published last December, also found that many fruit drinks - including smoothies, cordials and juices - are high in calories and contain just as much sugar as fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola.

The Safefood survey found that the popular Capri-Sun apple and blackcurrant drink contains 20g of sugar per 200ml - only slightly less than Coca-Cola, Pepsi and 7Up.

Smoothies were also alarmingly high in sugar even though they are considered a healthy option.

A 200ml glass of the popular Innocent mango and passion fruit smoothie contains the equivalent of nearly 22g of sugar, equating to more than four cubes of sugar.

Dr Francesco Branca, director for nutrition for health and development at the WHO, said yesterday: 'Obesity affects half a billion people in the world and it is on the rise. Sugar - along with other risk factors - might certainly become the new tobacco in terms of public health action.'

The draft guidelines will now be discussed by academics and medical experts around the world before a final version is published over the next few months.

Last night nutritionist Paula Mee welcomed the WHO's recommendations and also called for the Government to introduce a national awareness and education campaign on the issue of food labelling as she said there was a lot of confusion in this area. …