WHO recommends regulatory measures to slow sugar’s contribution to global childhood obesity.

  • Since the late 1980s, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended reducing dietary intake of free sugars (i.e., those added to foods and drinks and those naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates).  The WHO’s advice is based on the connection between a high level of free sugar intake and poor dietary quality, obesity, and risk of noncommunicable diseases.
  • The WHO has just issued a report urging the food industry and global governments to take active steps to slow sugar’s contribution to childhood obesity.  Specifically, the report discusses the benefits of regulatory actions such as mandatory nutrient labeling, a sugar tax, restrictions on the marketing of sugary foods to children, and consumer education campaigns.
  • Although the WHO certainly is viewed as an authoritative public health body, decisions about appropriate regulatory responses to sugar consumption and childhood obesity ultimately remain in the hands of individual governments.  In the United States, the federal government is taking a more active role with respect to the marketing and labeling of added sugar, with FDA poised to include a mandatory declaration and a daily value (DV) for added sugar as part of its comprehensive nutrition labeling revisions.  For the first time ever, the recently-released Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend capping added sugar intake at 10% of one’s daily caloric intake.  The full global impact and response to the WHO’s report remains to be seen, but we anticipate that added sugars will continue to occupy the public health spotlight for many years to come.