Feature articles

Consumption of added sugars in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders

The ATSI Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as part of the National Health Survey and is based on a nationally representative sample of around 13,400 ATSI people. An analysis of added sugars consumption was completed.

How much did they eat?
In 2012-13, ATSI people 2 years and over consumed an average of 75g of free sugars per day (equivalent to 18 teaspoons*). Added sugars made up the majority (average 68g or 16 teaspoons). An additional 7g came from honey and fruit juice.

ATSI people consumed 15g more free sugars on average than non-Indigenous people.

ATSI people consumed 14% of their daily energy from free sugars, exceeding the WHO recommendation of less than 10%.

ATSI people consume a higher proportion of daily energy from free sugars (14%kJ) than non-Indigenous Australians (10.9%kJ)

*1 teaspoon of sugar is 4.2g

Which groups consumed the most?
Free sugars contributed the most energy in older children and young adults. For example teenage boys aged 14-18 years consumed 106g (25 teaspoons) of free sugars per day, or 18% of their daily kilojoules. Women aged 19-30 years consumed 87g (21 teaspoons) of free sugars, or 17% of energy.

Teenage boys were also the highest consumers of free sugars in non-Indigenous Australians.

Intakes were higher for ATSI people living in non-remote areas (78g) than remote areas (65g).

Which foods contributed most?
The majority (87%) of free sugars were consumed in discretionary foods and beverages.

67% were from beverages:

  • 28% from soft drinks, sports and energy drinks
  • 12% fruit and vegetable juices and drinks
  • 9.5% cordials
  • 9.4% sugar added to tea and coffee
  • 4.9% alcoholic beverages
  • 3.4% milk beverages

Discretionary foods and beverages were also the highest contributors of free sugars in non-Indigenous Australians although the contribution was a little lower (82%kJ vs 87%).

ATSI people consume a higher proportion of free sugars from beverages (67%) than non-indigenous Australians (51%).

How do the diets of ATSI compare generally?

A summary of general nutrition results shows:

  • A smaller proportion of ATSI people consumed vegetable products and dishes on the day of the survey (65% vs 75%), and a lower proportion consumed the recommended amounts (4.4% vs 6.8%).
  • A lower proportion of ATSI people consumed fruit (46% s 60%).
  • ATSI people consumed a higher proportion of their energy as discretionary foods (41% vs 35%)
  • While a lower proportion of ATSI people consumed alcohol (19% vs 32%), the median amount consumed was twice as high.
  • Twice as many ATSI people consumed cordial (15% vs 7%)
  • A higher proportion of ATSI people consumed soft drinks and flavoured mineral water (37% vs 29%)

 ATSI children aged 2-3 years were three times as likely to consume soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters (18% vs 5.8%).

NEXT: Declining sugar consumption in Australia 

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive the latest newsletter with research on sugar. Plus insights from scientific experts.

View previous issues




Latest resources, fact sheets and scientific studies.


Sugar and health

View and download articles, reports and fact sheets containing current findings about the role of sugar in our diets.


Frequently asked questions

Explore the most common questions asked about sugar, and read up on some of the prevailing misconceptions.