The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) report on carbohydrates and health represents the biggest and most comprehensive review of the science linking these, and its findings are clear. In order to maintain better health, most people should reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, and increase the amount of fibre.
What is also clear is that achieving this across the population will take a big effort, not just from food producers, but from consumers, retailers and the government. Manufacturers must continue their efforts to reduce added sugar in food, and these new recommendations for halving the recommended daily sugar intake will add new impetus for them to do this.
But, to achieve the dietary changes that the evidence is showing we need to make to improve our health, it’s clear many consumers will need to make significant changes to their diet, especially as we are failing to meet current guidelines on decreasing sugar and increasing fibre. This can be supported by government, through education and other incentives, and by the food industry, through empowering consumers with clear labelling and providing alternatives. But ultimately it will be up to consumers to make changes needed.
We hope that the evidence assessed and provided by SACN will show the benefits of a healthy diet, low in sugar and high in fibre, and lead to more consumers achieving this.
Whilst the advice to cut sugar is gathering most attention, we also believe that of equal importance is the strong evidence presented that we should increase our fibre in the diet. Cereals are an easy way of adding fibre, and the SACN review recommends increasing whole grain cereals. Fibre intake can also be increased through eating more fruit and vegetables. At IFR, we’re investigating further health benefits from fruit and vegetables, and whether specific compounds that some fruits and vegetables are rich in have specific protective effects against some chronic conditions. Our aim is to get the very best evidence of benefits, and the mechanisms by which these work, to further add to the evidence.
We are also looking at the interactions between our food and the gastrointestinal tract. Fibre isn’t digested or absorbed in the small intestine, but is instead fermented by bacteria in the colon. We want to better understand the interactions between these bacteria, our bodies and food to help prevent disease and keep us healthy as we age.
SACN report main recommendations
Free sugars account for no more than 5% of daily energy intake.
- 19g children aged 4 to 6.
- 24g children aged 7 to 10.
- 30g for 11 years and over based on average population diets.
The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. fizzy drinks, soft drinks and squash) should be minimised by both children and adults.
The current recommendation that starchy carbohydrates, wholegrain where possible, should form 50% of daily calorie intake is maintained.
It is recommended that the average population intake of dietary fibre is increased
- 15g children aged 2-5
- 20g children aged 11-15
- 30g for 16 years and over