Associations between free sugar intake and markers of health in the UK population: an analysis of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme

Julie Young, Sophie Scott, Lindsey Clark, John Lodge*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Recommendations for free sugar intake in the UK should be no more than 5 % of total energy due to increased health risks associated with overconsumption. It was therefore of interest to examine free sugar intakes and associations with health parameters in the UK population. The UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme (2008-2017) was used for this study. Dietary intake, anthropometrical measurements and clinical biomarker data collated from 5121 adult respondents aged 19-64 years were statistically analysed. Compared with the average total carbohydrate intake (48 % of energy), free sugars comprised 12·5 %, with sucrose 9 % and fructose 3·5 %. Intakes of these sugars, apart from fructose, were significantly different over collection year (P < 0·001) and significantly higher in males (P < 0·001). Comparing those consuming above or below the UK recommendations for free sugars (5 % energy), significant differences were found for BMI (P < 0·001), TAG (P < 0·001), HDL (P = 0·006) and homocysteine concentrations (P = 0·028), and significant sex differences were observed (e.g. lower blood pressure in females). Regression analysis demonstrated that free sugar intake could predict plasma TAG, HDL and homocysteine concentrations (P < 0·0001), consistent with the link between these parameters and CVD. We also found selected unhealthy food choices (using the UK Eatwell Guide) to be significantly higher in those that consumed above the recommendations (P < 0·0001) and were predictors of free sugar intakes (P < 0·0001). We have shown that adult free sugar intakes in the UK population are associated with certain negative health parameters that support the necessary reduction in free sugar intakes for the UK population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
JournalThe British Journal of Nutrition
Volume128
Issue number2
Early online date9 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022

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