More than half of British adults are oblivious to how much sugar they eat in a day, which is far too much, according to new research.
The not-so-sweet truth is that less than 3% of adults and only 4% of parents know the recommended daily limit (RDL) for total and added sugar consumption, the study from healthy snacking brand Graze finds, as part of a nationwide #KnowAddedSugar campaign.
Added (or 'free') sugar is any sugar added to food or drinks during processing or preparation – which can surprisingly include products like honey and fruit smoothies – while naturally occurring sugars are those in dairy and intact fruit and veg.
Snack makers currently only label the total amount of sugar in their products, and don't share how much added sugar you're eating as a percentage of your RDL, explains Graze. With the RDL for added sugar being only one third of your total sugars RDL, it's easy to eat more than what's advised without realising.
The majority of parents over-estimate the RDL of added sugar for children by 50%, while one third admit to finding it difficult to keep track of how much sugar their children consume throughout the day.
A separate study found that only 16% of those aged 21 months, and less than 2% of 7-year-olds, met the recommended intake of added sugars.
Adults should have no more than 30g of added sugar a day (roughly seven cubes), children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g (six cubes) and children aged four to six should have no more than 19g, (five cubes), according to the NHS. While there's no official guideline limit for those under four, it's recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened and added sugar products.
Contributing to the problem, many of the UK's favourite snacks include up to 111% of our added sugar RDL, but a lack of clarity and understanding of how to manage our sugar intake has led to British adults to unknowingly consume double the recommended limit of added sugar, subsequently posing threats to our health.
This follows the World Health Organisation revealing the number of people who are overweight or obese has reached "epidemic proportions" across Europe, contributing to more than 1.2 million deaths per year.
But the new campaign, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, hopes to bring added sugar transparency to everyday snacking, by revealing the truth behind the excess added sugar contained with common snacks.
“How much added sugar is consumed from everyday foods is not something that is easy to understand for consumers and is even more difficult to control," explains Emilie Combet, Professor of Human Nutrition from the of University of Glasgow. "The sweetness added either by sugar, honey or by the addition of fruit purées and fruit juice concentrates, for example, can result in large amounts of added sugars in a single product - far beyond the 30g RDL."
Fewer than 15% of UK adults can guess the added sugar content of popular snacks, despite 60% actively seeking to reduce their intake, Grazw finds.
Singer, host of Table Manners podcast and mum Jessie Ware is working with Graze to improve education around added sugar, revealing how she and her family strike a healthy balance at home.
"I love my food, love a snack (or two) and I admit, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, but having kids with an insatiable love for treats has made me be aware of what we eat as a household, especially when it comes to sweet things," she said.
"They [Graze] have helped me identify the hidden added sugars in mine and my kids' favourite snacks through their clever online #KnowAddedSugar Index, ensuring that as a family we are more aware of what we're eating, but can still enjoy delicious, sweet snacks like Graze’s Oat Boosts, in a balanced way."
To help you find out the whole story, Graze's methodology, developed in consultation with Professor Combet, has estimated the added sugar content of more than 100 of the nation's favourite snacks, including its own – just see the #KnowAddedSugar Index.
"It is no surprise that in most sweet snacks, the total sugar content is mainly made up of “added sugar” in different forms," added Professor Combet.
"To reduce the amount of added sugar without compromising on taste, greater education on ingredients, serving sizes, nutritional guidelines, and a wider development of reduced sugar processes is needed to tackle the issue at scale."
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