The World Health Organization is urging people to cut back on the sweet stuff, saying an “ideal” level of sugar consumption should amount to less than six teaspoons per day.  

WHO has revised its sugar consumption guidelines for the first time in 10 years, saying that limiting sugars to less than five per cent of your daily calorie intake – or about 25 grams -- “would have additional benefits.”

A draft of the new guidelines, released Wednesday, still has the long-standing recommendation that sugars make up less than 10 per cent of daily energy intake. But WHO is urging people to consume even less sugar if possible.

The suggestion likely won’t be embraced by food manufacturers and the sugar industry, which balked the last time WHO revised its recommended sugar limits. 

For an adult of normal weight, the five per cent target translates to about 25 grams, or six teaspoons, of sugar per day. A can of Coke, which has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, would exceed that limit. 

The suggested guidelines apply to both added sugars in food and sugars that are naturally present in honey, fruit juices and syrups.

The draft guidelines are now open to public consultation on the WHO’s website until the end of March.

In a conference call with journalists on Wednesday, WHO officials said they reached the proposed guidelines following a systematic review of all published scientific studies on the link between sugar consumption, excess weight and tooth decay.

High sugar consumption is linked to an increase in obesity rates and tooth cavities around the world, WHO said. Individual efforts to cut back on sugar are hampered by the fact that many sugars are hidden in processed foods, the organization says.

Each tablespoon of ketchup, for example, contains a teaspoon of sugar.

The WHO says its aim is to provide solid evidence to policy makers around the world on safe levels of sugar consumption amid rising health care costs linked to obesity and other diet-related diseases.

Ahead of the WHO announcement, England’s chief medical officer said that sugar could be addictive and a tax on sugary products may have to be considered.

Asked about anticipated pushback on its new guidelines from the food industry, WHO’s expert group said Wednesday that it is fully independent and “equipped” to resist lobbying and pressure.

When WHO attempted to include its recommended sugar limit in a global diet strategy document in 2004, the U.S. sugar industry lobbied Congress to threaten a withdrawal of WHO funding. 

In the end, a direct reference to the 10 per cent limit was removed from the final report.

With files from The Canadian Press