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What do the guidelines say?

Like all previous versions, the 2013 NHMRC guidelines1 recommend limiting added sugar. While noting recent research linking consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and weight gain, the NHMRC says there are insufficient studies to determine the relationship between sugar intake and type 2 diabetes.1

An extensive review by the NHMRC found:

No new evidence that sugars cause or moderate the development of cardiovascular risk factors.1
Reduced energy intake and body weight are likely to be responsible for earlier findings which showed that lowering dietary sucrose could lower triglycerides.1
The association between sugar and increased risk of weight gain, dental caries and reduced bone strength was sufficient to warrant recommendations to restrict added sugar.1
Insufficient evidence to recommend an appropriate level of intake of added sugar on a population level.1
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a sugar intake of less than 10% of total daily calories,2 far less than most Australians consume.1 In guidelines released this March,2 the WHO also focused on evidence linking added sugar to weight gain and dental caries, rather than diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

"Risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD is often mediated through the effects of overweight and obesity, among other risk factors. Therefore, measures aimed at reducing overweight and obesity are likely to also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD, and the complications associated with those diseases."2

– World Health Organization
Information for patients

Although there is insufficient evidence that sugar contributes directly to cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, the World Health Organization and National Health and Medical Research Council recommend restricting and/or reducing sugar because of its association with weight gain, dental decay and reduced bone strength.
Honey, sucrose, agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup all contain high amounts of fructose. Sucrose, or table sugar, contains a 50/50 mix of glucose/fructose, while high fructose corn syrup contains 55–65% fructose.3 The main source of sugar in the Australian diet is sucrose (from sugar cane) that is added to foods.1
Whole fruits remain part of a healthy diet.1 The fructose contained in a whole piece of fruit is far less concentrated than the fructose contained in most processed foods.3
National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council 2013. [Fulltext] (accessed 4 May 2015)
World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva, 2015. [Online] (accessed 4 May 2015)