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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Maryam Kara

UK sugar tax cut adult intake by two teaspoons a day, study finds

The amount of sugar consumed daily in the UK fell by two and a half teaspoons for adults after a new tax on sugary foods and drinks was introduced, a study has revealed.

By the end of the first year of the sugar tax roll-out in 2018 (imposed as part of plans to tackle the obesity crisis), daily sugar consumption fell by 5 grams in children. Meanwhile, the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed it had dropped by 11g in adults.

The largest source of sugar for children aged four to 10 is cereal. But for those aged 11 to 18, it is soft drinks.

The levy was considered especially effective in limiting the consumption of sugary drinks, with a drop in their consumption causing half of the sugar reduction. It accounted for an even higher proportion among children.

The study found the consumption of free sugars — those added to sweetened foods and drinks found naturally in fruit juices and syrups — fell by 10 per cent in children and 20 per cent in adults.

However, free sugar intake in the UK remains higher than the 5 per cent World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation.

Free sugar intake in the UK remains higher than the 5% World Health Organisation recommendation, researchers say (Getty Images)

The WHO recommends that an individual’s free sugar consumption account for less than 5 per cent of total energy intake. This equals 30g a day for adults, 24g for children aged seven to 10, and 19g for children aged four to six.

There was also no substantial change in energy intake, the study revealed.

Researchers observed the annual UK national diet between 2008 and 2019 to assess the effect of the sugar tax. Before it was imposed, a gradual downward trend in free sugar consumption by adults and children had occurred since 2008.

“One reason might be the steady transition from sugar in the diet to low-calorie artificial sweeteners, which globally have had an annual growth of approximately 5.1 per cent between 2008 and 2015,” the study’s authors said.

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