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Dietary sources of free sugars in the diet of European children: the IDEFICS Study

Journal article
Authors M. I. M. Graffe
V. Pala
S. De Henauw
Gabriele Eiben
C. Hadjigeorgiou
L. Iacoviello
T. Intemann
H. Jilani
D. Molnar
P. Russo
T. Veidebaum
L. A. Moreno
Published in European Journal of Nutrition
Volume 59
Pages 979–989
ISSN 1436-6207
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Pages 979–989
Language en
Keywords Children, Food sources, Free sugars, Sugar recommendations, Sugar sweetened beverages
Subject categories Nutrition and Dietetics


Objective: To report dietary free sugars consumption and their different types and food sources in European children. Methods: The present study is based on the IDEFICS study, a European multicenter cohort study in children (2–9 years old) from eight countries, comprising 8308 children (51.4% males). Dietary intake of the previous 24 h was assessed using a computer-assisted 24-h dietary recalls (24-HDR) and the different types of sugars were assessed using the German food composition database. Results: Mean total energy intake was 1720 (SD 477) kcal/d for boys and 1631 (SD 451) kcal/d for girls. Total sugars intake was 98 (SD 52) g/day for boys and 93 (SD 49) g/day for girls. Free sugars intake was 81 (SD 49) g/day for boys and 77 (SD 47) g/day for girls. Girls had significantly lower intakes of energy, total and free sugars compared with than boys but did not differ in terms of percent of energy from total (23%) or free sugars (18%). There were large variations between countries in average % energy from free sugars (ranging from 13% in Italy to 27% in Germany). Less than 20% of children were within the recommended intake of 10% of energy from free sugars. The food groups that contributed substantially to free sugars intakes were “Fruit juices”, “Soft drinks”, “Dairy” and “Sweets and candies”. Conclusions: The contribution of free sugars to total energy intake in European children is higher than recommendations. The main food contributors to free sugars intake are sweetened beverages (“Fruit juices” and “Soft drinks”). It is especially important to reduce children’s intake of free sugars, focusing in target population on certain foods and food groups. © 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

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