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Americans told to cut their sugar intake in half

New US dietary guidelines have been released that tell consumers to get no more than 200 calories per day from sugar. But the government's official advice doesn't call for red meat intake to be cut.

The US government singled out sugar as the latest nutritional enemy on Thursday, as it called for Americans to reduce their reliance on the sweet, white powder.

Releasing its new dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years based on the latest nutrition science, the government insisted for no more than 10 percent of a 2,000-calorie diet to come from sugar. At present, Americans consume up to 22 teaspoons a day.

The latest advice was quickly hailed by doctors and some consumer groups, as the US battles an obesity and diabetes epidemic. More than one-third of adults - nearly 79 million Americans - are obese, and over the past five years that figure has shown no sign of declining.

The new guidelines follow calls from several health experts for the US to introduce a nationwide "sugar tax" on soft drinks, which is already in effect in the city of Berkeley, California.

A similar tax led to a 12 percent drop in sugary drinks when it was introduced in Mexico in 2014.

In response to the latest dietary advice, the American Medical Association said it was "extremely pleased" with the recommendation, which would "significantly reduce the amount of added sugars and sugar sweetened beverages from the American diet."

Obese Americans

The latest statistics show that nearly two-thirds of US adults are at an unhealthy weight

But many health campaigners and environmental groups say the guidelines - devised by the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services - fall short of expectations by not including limits on red meat or recommending that consumers make food choices according to the sustainability of the ingredients.

"USDA and HHS did not include explicit recommendations about the risks of red meat and the benefits of plant-based diets, ignoring clear scientific evidence from their own advisory committee," said conservationist Andrew A. Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The latest guidelines also call for saturated fats to make up less than 10 percent of daily calories and Americans to cut their salt intake by a third, to about a teaspoon a day. Women are advised to drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day, while men can have up to two.

But they've dropped longstanding advice to limit cholesterol from eggs and other foods in its "key recommendations."

The new guidelines follow several global studies that show the negative effect that sugar consumption has on human health. The issue has also hit the headlines in recent years, with one author, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, describing sugar as a "poison."

Michael Jacobson, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, hailed the news. "If Americans ate according to that advice, it would be a huge win for the public's health," he said.

mm/blc (AFP, AP)

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