World Food Day highlights healthy, low-sugar diets to combat malnutrition

15 October 2019 Nutrition

Each year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) celebrates World Food Day on 16 October to commemorate the founding of the organization in 1945.

This year’s World Food Day theme is Healthy Diets for a #ZEROHUNGER World. Achieving global food security goes beyond hunger: unhealthy diets have now become a leading risk factor for disease and death worldwide. There is an urgent need to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone.

According to the FAO, unhealthy diets, especially those high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and/or salt, combined with sedentary lifestyles, are the number one risk factor for disability and death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). For FDI, a significant escalation in worldwide sugars consumption is a particularly worrying trend for oral health.

Sickly sweet

An increase in global sugars consumption is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Over the past 50 years, worldwide sugar consumption has tripled, an increase that is expected to grow⁠—particularly in emerging economies. A high intake of free sugars—all sugars added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates⁠—is associated with an increase in global obesity levels and higher rates of tooth decay.

Over the past 50 years, worldwide sugar consumption has tripled, an increase that is expected to grow⁠—particularly in emerging economies.

A healthy mouth and a healthy diet go hand in hand

Nutrition and oral health are closely related. A healthy diet helps reduce the risk of developing NCDs such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Sugars consumption has a direct impact on oral health. There is a growing concern that the intake of sugars—particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages—increases overall energy intake and may reduce the intake of nutrition-rich foods.

Tooth decay remains the single most prevalent NCD in the world. Despite improvements in oral disease prevention and treatment over the past decades, problems persist: oral diseases can cause pain, anxiety, functional limitation, and social handicap through tooth loss.

FDI’s approach to combat sugars

The rise of sugars consumption represents a major oral health challenge. Global action to prevent dental caries is urgently needed from national leaders and the international public health community.

The World Health Organization recommends that intake of free sugars be limited to less than 50g per day.

The World Health Organization's Guideline: sugars intake for adults and children, recommends that the daily intake of free sugars be limited to less than 10% (or 50 g = around 12 teaspoons) of total energy intake in both adults and children. A further reduction to below 5% (or 25 g = around 6 teaspoons) of total energy intake would provide additional health benefits and help minimize the risk of developing dental caries.

FDI is committed to coordinating action to implement the WHO sugars guideline through local, national, and international food policies. FDI also advocates dental caries prevention strategies focusing on individual- and population-based approaches to reduce free sugars consumption, particularly through sugar-sweetened beverages, and we encourage national dental associations to introduce dietary guidelines to reduce free sugars in schools, workplaces, and other public institutions.