The U.K. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has released its final Carbohydrate and Health report recommending that “free sugars account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake.” Asked by the U.K. Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to “examine the latest evidence on the links between consumption of carbohydrates, sugars, starch and fiber and a range of health outcomes,” the expert panel commissioned systematic reviews of evidence from prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials, in addition to considering comments submitted in response to its first draft report.

Based on these findings, the report concludes, among other things, that (i) “high levels of sugar consumption are associated with a greater risk of tooth decay”; (ii) “drinking high-sugar beverages results in weight gain and increases in BMI in teenagers and children”; and (iii) “consuming too many high-sugar beverages increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” To mitigate these health effects, SACN not only urges consumers to minimize sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, but recommends that “the term free sugar is adopted, replacing the terms Non Milk Extrinsic Sugars (NMES) and added sugars.” The panel also revised the dietary intake guidelines for fiber as follows: (i) adults over age 16 should increase their fiber intake to 30 grams per day, (ii) children ages 11 to 15 years should consume 25 grams daily, (iii) children ages 5 to 11 years should consume 20 grams daily, and (iv) children ages 2 to 5 years should consume 15 grams daily.

“The evidence is stark—too much sugar is harmful to health and we all need to cut back. The clear and consistent link between a high-sugar diet and conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes is the wake-up call we need to rethink our diet,” said SACN Carbohydrates and Health Chair Ian Macdonald. “Cut down on sugars, increase fibre and we’ll all have a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.”