The results of the professional studies are clear enough to set a specific maximum limit for daily sugar consumption. Three professional societies have agreed on this amount: According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the German Obesity Society (DAG) and the German Diabetes Society, a maximum of 50 grams of sugar per day should be consumed.
According to data from the Study of Adult Health in Germany (DEGS 1), 29 percent of women and 43.8 percent of men are overweight. In addition, 23.9 percent of women and 23.3 percent of men are obese. According to the Robert Koch Institute's Child and Adolescent Health Survey (KIGGS), 15.4 percent of three- to 17-year-old children and adolescents are overweight and 5.9 percent suffer from obesity.
Overweight and obesity are associated with numerous concomitant and secondary diseases, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, lipid metabolism disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer and degenerative joint disease. The direct and indirect costs of these diseases are estimated to be at least 13 billion euros. The direct costs of secondary diseases due to excessive and frequent sugar consumption in 2008 are estimated by the three scientific societies at 8.6 billion euros.
The professional societies believe that the scientific studies are sufficient to recommend clear upper limits for average daily sugar consumption. It is recommended that no more than ten percent of the daily calorie requirement, which averages 2,000 kilocalories, be consumed in the form of sugar, which corresponds to a maximum of 50 grams of total sugar in any form.
Currently, Germans on average significantly exceed this limit. The actual consumption of women is 40 percent and that of men 30 percent above this limit. The extent of overconsumption among children and young people is particularly worrying, as they consume 75 percent more sugar than recommended.
Confectionery accounts for the largest share of free sugar intake, 36 percent. Fruit juices and nectars also make a significant contribution to sugar consumption at 26 percent, while soft drinks account for 12 percent. With a consumption of 32 liters of fruit juice per capita per year, Germany is one of the world's top consumers. At 116 liters per capita per year, consumption of soft drinks such as cola and lemonades is at a similarly high level to mineral water.
Children consume an average of 75 percent too much sugar, but adults also exceed the recommended limit. For men, the figure is 30 percent, and for women it is as high as 40 percent. Sweetened soft drinks are particularly problematic because they do not produce a satiety effect. Unlike solid sugary foods, they do not compensate for the intake of other calorie-containing foods. In addition, sugary foods and beverages provide too much energy but little to no essential nutrients, which can lead to overeating and malnutrition.
The incidence of obesity
In view of the particular importance of sugary beverages, the high per capita consumption in Germany, the high national prevalence of overweight and obesity, and the associated high burden of disease, the DAG, DDG, and DGE agree with the evidence-based recommendation of the WHO from 2015. This recommends that the intake of free sugars should not exceed ten percent of total energy. This includes naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrup and fruit juices. With an estimated average total energy intake of 2000 kilocalories per day, the daily intake of sugar should not exceed 50 grams.
The DGE emphasizes the importance of the type of carbohydrates in isocaloric diets and recommends focusing primarily on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Processed foods should be consumed sparingly. In addition, sugar-sweetened beverages should be replaced with water or unsweetened teas, while children should not be introduced to high intakes of sugar in the first place.
Based on the evidence, the professional societies conclude that behavioral preventive measures alone are not sufficient to reduce overweight, obesity and associated diseases. Promising public health interventions should therefore target relationship prevention to facilitate health-promoting choices by consumers in an environment with unlimited access to fat- and sugar-rich foods.
In the international context, a number of dietary public health measures have already been implemented to reduce sugar intake.