Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce the risk of childhood overweight and obesity
Overweight and obese children are at higher risk of developing serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory problems, sleep disorders and liver disease. They may also suffer from psychological effects, such as low self-esteem, depression and social isolation. Childhood obesity also increases the risk of obesity, noncommunicable diseases, premature death and disability in adulthood.
Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is high in many parts of the world and is suggestive of poor dietary quality, as sugar-sweetened beverages contain sugars such as sucrose or fructose, often in large amounts, which contribute to the overall energy density of diets. The calories provided by sugar-sweetened beverages have little nutritional value and may not provide the same feeling of fullness that solid food provides. As a result, total energy intake may increase which can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
WHO has developed guidance on free sugars* intake, as shown below, based on the impact of free sugars intake on weight gain and dental caries. Current evidence suggests that increasing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with overweight and obesity in children. Therefore, reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages would also reduce the risk of childhood overweight and obesity.
* Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
WHO recommends a reduced intake of free sugars throughout the lifecourse.
In both adults and children, WHO recommends reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake.
WHO suggests a further reduction of the intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake.
Additional information for these recommendations can be found in the guidance summary and in the guideline, under 'WHO documents' below.
Other guidance documents
Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation, WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916 (TRS 916)
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies
Effect on caries of restricting sugars intake: systematic review to inform WHO guidelines
Related systematic reviews
Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis