Just two weeks ago, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released its recommendations amid news that those made by previous committees were not only based on unsound science, but also may have made public health worse.
We now know that past recommendations gave inaccurate advice on cholesterol, grain-based carbohydrates, fat and coffee. Americans who followed this advice likely never knew it was based on a slim body of low-quality research that was contradicted by other nutritional science. Not a great track record.
Now it is “added” or “free” sugars that have become the vilified nutrient of the 2015 DGAC - as well as many public health activists. Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended adults and children reduce their intake of “free” sugars to less than 10 percent of their daily energy intake, and also "conditionally" recommended that a further reduction in sugar intake to less than 5 percent of daily energy intake.
This conditional recommendation was principally based on three studies about sugar consumption and dental caries from the World War II era that were judged to be of “very low scientific quality” by the researchers selected by WHO to conduct the evidence review.
The reliance on just a few studies of low quality is exactly why we’ve been given inaccurate advice in the past on what to eat and drink. Respected researchers in nutritional science have come forward with studies that call into question the unfounded claims against added sugar.
Nikhil Dhurandhar, chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University and president of The Obesity Society, and Diana Thomas, director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research at Montclair State University, published a study recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association that concluded that a link between excess cardiovascular mortality and added sugar consumption is not proven:
“Although added sugar intake may increase CVD [cardiovascular disease] risk factors, the causal relationship between sugar ingestion, CVD risk factors, and CVD mortality remains unclear,” the stated. They stress further that “there is insufficient scientific evidence to support pursuit of policies limiting sugar intake.”
When asked by ConscienHealth.com if it makes sense to make an entire population cut its consumption of added sugars, Thomas said, “Our real conclusion is that this has not been fully resolved. Jumping into population-wide experiments on nutrition sometimes works out badly.”
As Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, told the DailyMail.com, “There is currently no evidence supporting a recommended intake lower than 10% for obesity prevention, either from observational studies or randomized control trials.”
So why then is WHO making a worldwide recommendation when there is no scientific evidence that “added” sugars is a unique driver of obesity or obesity-related health issues? Your guess is as good as ours. If we really want to address obesity, perhaps public health advocates like WHO should focus on real and meaningful solutions based on solid science.
Click here to read the International Council of Beverages Associations statement on WHO guidelines.