Beyond the Chair: Public Health and Governmental Measures to Tackle Sugar

P. Moynihan, C. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Limiting free sugars to <5% of energy intake is a World Health Organization evidence-based recommendation to protect oral health throughout the life course. Achieving this requires a concerted approach with upstream interventions, including legislation underpinning community interventions and health promotion. Global production and trade are the main drivers of sugars consumption, which can be addressed only through prioritization of health impacts in agricultural and trade agreements, including pricing and subsidies. Increasing evidence demonstrates the benefit, including dental benefits, of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, a major source of sugars—with taxes based on sugars content being favored due to the dual impact in incentivizing consumers to buy less and encouraging producers to use less through product reformulation. A benefit of product reformulation is that the potential impact on sugars intake occurs independent of consumer behavior change, making the benefits more equitable across social groups. Evidence from meta-analysis indicates that sugars reformulation and portion size reduction could lower energy intake by more than 10% and 16%, respectively. Sophisticated and targeted digital marketing of products high in sugars is another key driver of sugars intake. With the exception of children’s television broadcasting, marketing of products high in sugars is largely unregulated, and increased awareness of modern marketing strategies and more stringent regulation are urgently needed. To ensure a commercial level playing field, mandatory approaches are required. Midstream actions include creating healthier food environments in neighborhoods, community settings (schools, sports centers, hospitals), and workplaces. Only through coalition among authorities responsible for planning and health will “obesogenic and cariogenic” environments be replaced with those that make healthy choices the easiest choice. It is recognized that providing nutrition health education alone is insufficient to achieve necessary sugars reduction; however, education has a key role to play in changing social norms and creating drive for change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-876
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jul 2020


  • dental caries
  • food industry
  • health education
  • marketing
  • policy
  • taxes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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