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Update on carbohydrates and health: the relevance of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report for children
  1. Vicki Pyne1,
  2. Ian Andrew Macdonald2
  1. 1Diet and Obesity Division, Public Health England, London, UK
  2. 2School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ian Andrew Macdonald, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Clifton Boulevard, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK; ian.macdonald{at}

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In July 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published their report on Carbohydrates and Health which provided recommendations to the UK government on the population intakes of total carbohydrate, sugars and fibre in the UK.1 Carbohydrates and their relationship to health were last considered by the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) in reports spanning the 1980s and 1990s.2–4 Since then, a wealth of evidence had been published and therefore SACN was requested to review the literature to ensure that government advice on carbohydrates is based on up-to-date evidence.

For the first time, SACN used a systematic review process to inform their assessment of the evidence base. Reviews of cohort studies and randomised controlled trials exploring the relationship between various carbohydrates and cardiometabolic, colorectal and oral health were commissioned. These applied strict inclusion and exclusion criteria to ensure that the evidence was of sufficient quality to enable conclusions to be drawn. The evidence was subsequently assessed by the committee using the SACN framework for the evaluation of evidence5 and graded according to a system devised specifically for the report. Based on their assessment, SACN reviewed the terminology, classification and definitions of types of carbohydrates in the diet as well as producing dietary recommendations.

The dietary recommendations made in the report apply to children aged 2 years and above and have been made in the context of an energy intake that is appropriate to maintain a healthy weight.6 Due to the absence of information, no specific recommendations were made for children aged less than 2 years, but gradual diversification of the diet to provide increasing amounts of whole grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables with reduced amounts of free sugars is encouraged.

Total carbohydrate

The dietary reference value for total carbohydrate was previously set in …

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  • Collaborators Vicki Pyne.

  • Contributors IAM chaired the Working Group of SACN which produced the Carbohydrates and Health report. VP was a member of the supporting Secretariat from Public Health England for much of the time that the report was being prepared. VP produced the drafts of the present article after discussions about its content with IAM. IAM read these drafts and produced the final version.

  • Funding The SACN report itself was part of the activities of SACN, which is funded by Public Health England.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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