Royal College of Physicians of Ireland renews its call for the introduction of a sugar tax following WHO report

Prof Donal O'Shea, Co-chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity welcomes the WHO report as a step forward in providing the evidence to tackle obesity.

The RCPI Policy Group on Obesity has welcomed the attention brought to the issue of sugar intake by the WHO launch of a public consultation on its draft guidelines on sugar intake. The current recommendation from 2002 recommends that sugars should make up less than 10 per cent of total energy intake per day. The draft guidelines highlight further benefits if this was reduced to less than 5 per cent.

Commenting on the report, Prof Donal O’Shea Co-chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Obesity and Consultant Endocrinologist in Vincent's University Hospital and St Columcilles Hospital said, "I am very pleased with the WHO draft guidelines. The consumption of free sugars, those added to food and drink, has soared in the last three decades and is a key target for tackling the obesity epidemic. This is a step forward and is evidence based.

“Today’s recommendation from the WHO says that an adult should consume a maximum of ten per cent of their total energy intake from sugar with added benefits if this is reduced to five per cent. Five per cent is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI). For children, the amount would be much lower.”

“The amount of sugar in a standard can of coke, for example, is well in excess of this recommended intake. Energy drink and sports drinks often contain even higher levels of sugar. For example flavoured Lucozade Energy (380ml) contains 47.5 grams of sugar (approx 12 teaspoons).

“Free sugars are a key culprit in our current obesity epidemic. Consumption of free sugars increases overall energy intake and reduces the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories. Excess sugar also increases the risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and tooth decay.

“As a policy group we have previously called for the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks. Today’s announcement highlights the serious health issue posed by these drinks, and other products containing high levels of added sugar. The government needs to take action on this to safeguard the health of the nation and to realise its vision of a Healthy Ireland.

"It is disappointing too that such products are actively promoted by sportspeople in their capacity as role models to adults and children alike. Sports drinks are designed for athletes and sports people expending high levels of energy. For the rest of us, they are not recommended due to the high sugar content.”

For further information contact

Siobhán Creaton 01 863 9698 or 085 872 2109

Yvonne McCahill 01 8639627