Sugar and Health - MECAS(16)05

Sugar has been in the human diet for centuries. However, the overall role of sugars in human health and its association with the growing prevalence of non- communicable diseases (NCDs) has become a key focus of public health policies in recent years. While there is abundant evidence to support the consumption of sugar as part of a healthy diet, a lot of the information underpinning the current “sugar and health” debate can be misleading and incomplete. Therefore, it is important to separate facts from fiction. To date, there is insufficient scientific evidence to suggest a link between total sugar intake and the prevalence of obesity. Nevertheless, demands for further regulation and taxation against sugary products are growing. Drawing from a multitude of sources, this MECAS study offers a balanced overview of the main elements sustaining the “sugar and health” debate. It begins with an analysis of the evolution of food and sugar consumption patterns worldwide and a brief discussion of consumer awareness around sugar-related claims on food and beverage (F&B) products. 

This paper then examines key scientific facts and recent recommendations related to “sugar and health”. The development of obesity is analysed in relation to sugar consumption patterns and the results are presented in a scatterplot. From a market point of view, the effects of the current backlash on sugar are looked at from two angles: consumers and F&B manufacturers. Lastly, this study delves into the issue of taxation as a means to influence food prices and diets. This section is accompanied by a first-of-its-kind time line of past and present attempts by governments to use fiscal policy and regulation in trying to curb demand for sugary products. The goal of the study is to provide an inventory of the investigations, reports and evidence about sugar consumption in an impartial, objective and factual manner. This compilation aims to enrich the understanding of the main elements in the current discussion, without making any value judgements or adopting subjective positions. Conclusions herein contained can be directly attributed to the original authors and are registered for reference only.

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