"There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in both reduced intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories and an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of non-communicable diseases -- diabetes or heart disease," the U.N. heath agency in Geneva, Switzerland, said in a statement.
"Also of great concern is the role free sugars play in the development of dental diseases, particularly dental caries. Dental diseases are the most prevalent non-communicable diseases globally and though great improvements in prevention and treatment have occurred in the last decades, dental diseases continue to cause pain, anxiety, functional limitation and social handicap through tooth loss, for large numbers of people worldwide."
The treatment of dental diseases is expensive -- costing between 5 percent and 10 percent of health budgets in industrialized countries -- and would exceed the financial resources available for the whole of healthcare for children in the majority of lower-income countries, WHO said.
The draft guideline was developed in accordance with WHO's procedures for evidence-informed guideline development -- the review of thousands of studies involving health and increased levels of sugar.
WHO member states and relevant stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft guidelines until March 31.
The average U.S. adult eats about 135 pounds of sugar a year, or 22 teaspoons a day, getting about 15 percent of their daily calories from sugar.