GENEVA — New guidelines from the World Health Organization aim to cut people's sugar intake in half.
The proposed guidelines, announced Tuesday, would keep the recommended daily sugar intake at less than 10 percent of total energy intake, but implement a new target level of 5 percent.
The proposed limits weren't just designed to reduce intake of sugary foods like candy and soda — WHO also wants people to limit naturally present sugars like those found in fruit or honey. The target sugar intake of 5 percent for an adult with a normal body mass index would be about 6 teaspoons per day, according to WHO.
"Much of the sugars consumed today are 'hidden' in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets," the statement from WHO reads. "For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar."
The revised guidelines are intended to reduce public health problems like obesity and tooth decay, according to WHO. It said balancing energy consumption is critical.
"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in both reduced intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories and an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases," WHO wrote in its draft guideline.
The current recommendation of 10 percent was implemented in 2002. Some health advocates have said that with the increasing number of people facing obesity challenges, the guidelines should have been changed earlier.
"It is a tragedy that it has taken 10 years for the WHO to think about changing their recommendation on sugar, which will have had astronomic implications on the millions affected by obesity and Type 2 diabetes the world over," nutritionist Katharine Jenner with the group Action for Sugar told BBC.
However, others speculated the 5 percent limit may be difficult for some people to adjust to. Sugar is currently responsible for an average of 15 percent of Americans' daily energy intake, according to USA Today.
WHO is accepting comments on the proposed guideline until March 31, its statement said. After that, the guideline will be finalized after making potential revisions and receiving clearance from its Guidelines Review Committee.