There is consistent guidance to the public to reduce or limit intakes of sugars, which has been accompanied by public health policies and commercial action to help achieve this goal.
Most nutrition labels give consumers information about total sugars in products. However, nutrition guidelines and dietary recommendations from expert authorities relate to limiting ‘added’ or ‘free’ sugars in the diet. This paper clarifies what these are and shows that ‘free’ sugars are most relevant for health risks, but highlights a number of challenges for wider use of ‘free’ sugars in public health communication and nutrition labelling.
Relative to total and added sugars, the term “free sugars” best conveys the nature and sources of dietary sugars that are most consistently related to of positive energy balance, diabetes and dental caries.