Singapore

HPB aims to cut Singaporeans' sugar intake by a quarter in two years

It wants Singaporeans to cut intake by nearly a quarter in two years

By 2020, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) aims to get Singaporeans to cut their sugar intake by nearly a quarter and include more unrefined carbohydrates, such as wholegrains, in their diet.

The HPB said yesterday that it is also drawing up a set of guidelines for food manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar used in sauces, desserts and sweet drinks.

These moves in the war against diabetes come half a year after seven drink companies pledged to reduce the sugar in their beverages to 12 per cent by 2020.

Currently, refined carbohydrates - including starchy staples such as rice and noodles as well as cane sugar - make up the bulk of the average person's carbohydrate intake.

Sugar makes up 22 per cent of that intake of refined carbohydrates. The HPB is hoping to bring this down to 17 per cent.

It also hopes to increase the proportion of unrefined carbohydrates that people are consuming from 17 per cent to 35 per cent.

"Our bodies really do not need any carbohydrates from added sugar," said Dr Annie Ling, who is director of the HPB's policy, research and surveillance division.

"Over the years, Singaporeans have just become more used to less sweet drinks. We hope to replicate this for desserts and sauces."

The board is looking at ways to replace cane sugar with other natural alternatives such as isomaltulose and allulose. These sugars can be found in fruits and vegetables, including sugar beets, figs and jackfruit.

They can be used together with regular sugar to create sauces that are healthier and have a lower glycaemic index.

MORE EXPENSIVE

But they also tend to be more expensive. While regular table sugar goes for $1 a kg, the same amount of allulose sells for $6 to $9 a kg.

The HPB is also looking to replace sugar in desserts with plant fibres known as inulin and oligofructose.

"Sugar provides bulking and flavour to a food product - so it is not just about cutting sugar and adding sweeteners," said Dr Eunice Pang, a food scientist at the HPB.

The HPB is working with chefs of food and beverage firms, including Chinese restaurant chain Tung Lok, to re-work dishes to include these sugar alternatives.

"To translate the science into food we want to eat, we need the chefs," said HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang.

He said the board is also looking at a set of guidelines, which could be made more stringent, for sauces and desserts to reduce their added sugar content.

"This has been a process we have seen work with sugar-sweetened beverages," he said.

"By gradually reducing the sugar content over time, it allows for the palates of consumers to adjust."

Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said yesterday that he was pleased to see "industry forerunners" taking the initiative to come up with lower sugar options.

MEDICAL & HEALTH