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March 9, 2020 - Carbohydrate Nutrition News

Research Calls for Better Health Professional Knowledge of Sugars Consumption and WHO Sugars Guidelines

An article “Knowledge of Sugars Consumption and the WHO Sugars Guideline among Canadian Dietitians and Other Health Professionals” was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. The article includes findings of surveys conducted by the Canadian Sugar Institute at the 2014 Dietitians of Canada National Conference and the Canadian Diabetes Association (now Diabetes Canada) Professional conference. Conference delegates provided oral consent prior to completing the anonymous survey. The surveys assessed health professionals’ knowledge of the World Health Organization (WHO) free sugars guideline and Canadian added sugars consumption.

Main findings include:

  • A larger proportion of Registered Dietitians were able to correctly identify average Canadian added sugars consumption at 11% of total energy, as compared to other health professionals. However, the majority of respondents (two-thirds) overestimated this value.
  • The WHO 10% guidelines for “free sugars” intake is based on evidence related to dental caries alone1, however 90% of respondents answered that guidelines were based on evidence related to: obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and dental caries.

Based on the results of the survey, there are gaps in knowledge among health professionals related to Canadian sugars consumption and the WHO free sugars guideline. These misconceptions may be linked to inaccurate communications of consumption data and the WHO recommendations to both health professionals and the general public. Overall, better communication of added sugars/free sugars consumption data, the WHO free sugars guideline, and tools to improve understanding of sugars terminology could help improve health professional understanding and assist in the accurate translation of sugars guidelines to the public.

The article has been published open-access and is available for download from the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research.

The WHO recommendation states: “The recommendation to limit free sugars intake to less than 10% of total energy intake is based on moderate quality evidence from observational studies of dental caries.” See: https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/