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• The consumption of caloric sweeteners (sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, sorghum) in the world has increased by 74 kilo calories per day since 1962. The increase is more in the lower and the middle-income countries as compared to the higher income countries

• Increased consumption of soft drinks and sugared fruit drinks are behind this increase in intake of sweeteners. Though drinks are less sating, they are calorie-rich. This leads to overconsumption and results in chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease

• Due to different health problems linked to over-consumption, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended sweeteners be consumed less. Sweeteners ought to be less than 10 per cent of total diet. It is 12.84 per cent of diet in developed countries

• The industry is fighting this move. In the US, the sugar industry has asked the Congress to end its funding to WHO. It contends that sugar is an important and inexpensive source of energy

There is a proliferation of sugar-rich processed foods. Around 82 per cent of the consumption of processed food is related to factors like urbanisation and higher GNP. The rest is due to change in behaviour of the industry and the consumer

• Sweetened drinks have replaced nutritious foods such as milk in some countries. In Canada, milk consumption went down from 251.3 to 204.6 kilogramme per person per year from 1961 to 2001

• Fast food is responsible for 40 per cent of the increase in calorie intake in the US

• If both urbanisation and processing of food supply continues, there would be a shift from foods that are an important source of calcium, and other nutrients

Source: B M Popkin and Samara Joy Nielsen 2003. The sweetening of the world's diet in Obesity Research, Vol 11, No 11, pg 1325