THE daily allowance for a person's sugar intake should be halved to six teaspoons, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
Draft guidance published by the international body advises a dramatic reduction in sugar consumption to help avoid mounting health problems including obesity and tooth decay.
WHO is proposing to retain its current formal recommendation that no more than 10pc of an individual's calories should come from sugar – the equivalent of 12 "level" teaspoons a day for the average adult.
However, its draft guidelines state that a further reduction to 5pc "would have additional benefits". The lower limit amounts to around six teaspoons – less than the levels of sugar in a 50g Mars Bar.
The move comes amid growing evidence that sugar contributes to a range of chronic diseases. The WHO's announcement comes after a study by the University of Southern California found that eating too much protein could be as dangerous as smoking for middle-aged people.
Separately, a leading heart scientist has warned that NHS guidelines advising people to cut down on high-fat foods may be putting the public at risk. Dr James DiNicolantonio warns that more focus is needed on the "harms" of consuming high levels of carbohydrates and sugar.
The WHO limits apply to all "free" sugar, which is sugar that is added to foods by the manufacturer, plus that naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.
The announcement came after Dame Sally Davies, Britain's chief medical officer, suggested a sugar tax to curb obesity rates.
Dr Francesco Branca, director for nutrition, health and development at WHO, warned that obesity already affected half a billion people. WHO warned that much of the sugars consumed today were "hidden" in processed foods "that are not usually seen as sweets".
Dr Branca said a single can of fizzy drink could exceed the amount of sugar that children should have in a day.
The new draft guidelines were published after WHO considered a report by scientists at Newcastle University which suggested the limit should be halved to reduce tooth decay.
The food and drink industry denies the claims over the effect of sugar on health. (© Daily Telegraph, London)