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.
INTRODUCTION PART 1: FOOD AND SUGAR CONSUMPTION PATTERNS DRIVERS OF DIETARY CHANGE EVOLUTION OF WORLD FOOD SUPPLY PER CAPITA EVOLUTION OF WORLD SUGAR CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA HIGH FRUCTOSE SYRUPS SUGAR CONSUMPTION ACROSS DIFFERENT POPULATION GROUPS CONSUMPTION OF SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES, FRUITS JUICES AND MILK CONSUMER AWARENESS OF SUGAR-RELATED CLAIMS ON FOOD AND DRINKS PRODUCTS KEY FINDINGS OF PART 1 PART 2: SUGAR AND HEALTH THE ROLE OF SUGAR IN THE DIET SUGAR AND OBESITY GLOBAL PREVALENCE OF OBESITY A CROSS ANALYSIS OF SUGAR CONSUMPTION AND OBESITY RATES KEY FINDINGS OF PART 2 PART 3: THE SUGAR BACKLASH AND ITS REACTIONS THE CONSUMERS THE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CONSUMER TRENDS IN SALES OF HEALTHY FOODS THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE COMPANIES EFFORTS TOWARDS SELF-REGULATION POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS AND TAX INITIATIVES THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’S POSITION ON SUGAR INTAKE THE IMPACT OF FISCAL POLICY ON DIET SUGAR TAX ON FOOD AND SOFT DRINKS KEY FINDINGS OF PART 3 SUGAR POLICY TIMELINE: FROM 1926 TO 2016 CONCLUSIONS APPENDIX ANNEX 1: SUGAR CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA FOR FROM 2001 TO 2014 ANNEX 2: HF CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA IN SELECTED COUNTRIES FROM 2001 TO 2014 ANNEX 3: DISTRIBUTION OF SUGAR AND HFS CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA IN SELECTED COUNTRIES FROM 2001 AND 2014 ANNEX 4: TOTAL SUGAR AND HFS CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA IN SELECTED COUNTRIES FROM 2001 TO 2014 ANNEX 5: OBESITY RATES AND SUGAR CONSUMPTION PER CAPITA FOR SELECTED COUNTRIES IN 1990, 2000, 2010 AND 2013 ANNEX 6: WHO AGE-STANDARDIZED ESTIMATE FOR MALE AND FEMALE OBESITY RATES IN 2010 AND 2014.