Spanish Nutritionists Advise on Reducing Sugar Intake

by Ella

In Spain, minors consume more than three times the amount of sugar recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN). This agency, under the Ministry of Consumption, reports that 53.9% of minors exceed the WHO’s 10% daily intake limit, with children aged 3 to 9 years being the highest consumers. The WHO suggests that reducing daily sugar intake to 5% of total intake is optimal, noting that there is no scientific evidence indicating harm from such a reduction.

Types of Sugars: Intrinsic vs. Free Sugars

Before discussing how to reduce sugar consumption, it’s important to distinguish between intrinsic and free sugars. Nutrition coach Susana León explains, “The sugar in fruits includes fructose, glucose, and sucrose in different proportions. These sugars, combined with the fiber in fruits, slow down absorption, preventing the rapid sugar rush associated with added sugars.”


Free sugars, as defined by the WHO, are monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by manufacturers, cooks, or consumers, along with sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices, and fruit juice concentrates. The WHO recommends limiting these sugars to 10% of daily intake and ideally to 5% for additional health benefits. These recommendations do not apply to intrinsic sugars in fruits, which are beneficial in a balanced diet.


The Addictive Nature of Free Sugars

The addictive nature of free sugars complicates efforts to reduce intake. Various studies confirm this addiction, including one published in the Venezuelan Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, which indicates that “natural behaviors (such as eating) and addictive drugs likely share the same neural systems.” The study further warns that dieting can strengthen these brain connections, explaining the rebound effect observed in strict diets.


A University of California study also concludes that sugar triggers a brain reaction leading to compulsive use despite awareness of its harmful effects. The high palatability of sugary foods exacerbates the difficulty in reducing consumption.


Strategies for Reducing Sugar Intake

Nutritionist Paola Procell, an expert in inflammation and metabolic flexibility, emphasizes a gradual approach to reducing sugar intake. “Most people cannot eliminate sugar abruptly without experiencing headaches, anxiety, and excessive cravings,” says Procell. “Abrupt removal can worsen the problem, leading to withdrawal symptoms and sugar binges, particularly in the mid-afternoon, which can be deeply disappointing and counterproductive.”

Procell, creator of the Healthy Cooking Method, advocates for progressive reduction to manage these symptoms and avoid counterproductive outcomes. By gradually cutting back on sugar, individuals can better manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce their overall intake more sustainably.


Reducing sugar consumption, particularly among minors in Spain, is crucial for better health outcomes. By understanding the differences between intrinsic and free sugars and acknowledging the addictive nature of added sugars, individuals can take a more informed and gradual approach to reducing their intake. Nutrition experts like Susana León and Paola Procell offer valuable insights and strategies to help navigate this dietary challenge effectively.



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