Sugar Consumption in the U.S.
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate found in some foods and drinks. Natural sugars are found in foods like fruit and milk. Added sugars are added to foods and drinks during processing or preparation.
Researchers estimate Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. The most common forms of added sugar in the American diet are sucrose (cane or refined beet sugar) and high fructose corn syrup. Soft drinks are a common source of added sugar. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 132 calories from added sugar. Some other common sources of added sugars include: fruit drinks, candy, cakes, cookies and ice cream. Many packaged products also contain added sugar.
The Sugar-Heart Disease Connection
Sugar has long been known to be a contributor to weight gain and obesity. It also increases the risk for chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends, on average, men consume no more than 150 calories/day from added sugars. For women, the average upper limit of added sugars is 100 calories. Men and women who lead sedentary lives should consume even less added sugar.
Researchers at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta recently reported on another health issue associated with consumption of added sugars – dyslipidemia, or abnormal cholesterol levels. Investigators compared reports of average added sugar intake with cholesterol measurements of adults who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) of 1999-2006. The scientists found those who consumed more added sugars were more likely to have low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and higher levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Cutting Out Sugar
Jean Welsh, M.P.H., R.N., Graduate Researcher at Emory University, says the study findings provide another reason for reducing the amount of added sugars in the diet. However, she cautions that it’s not easy to do so because there are so many hidden added sugars in processed food. Look at the list of ingredients on the food label panel. In addition to “sugar,” added sweeteners may be listed under the names maltose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, honey or fruit juice concentrate.
Researcher Miriam Vos, M.D., says the easiest way to reduce added sugar in the diet is to limit processed foods and eat more whole foods. Add fruit to cereal or pancakes instead of sugar or syrup. When baking, cut the amount of sugar in the recipe by one-third to one-half. Unsweetened applesauce can also be substituted for sugar in some recipes.
American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
Lopez, Elsa Pinto, et al., “The Relationship Among Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Diet Patterns, Alcohol Consumption, and Ethnicity Among Women Aged 50 Years and Older,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, February 2008, Vol. 108, No. 2, pp. 248-256.
Schaefer, Ernst, et al., “Dietary Fructose and Glucose Differentially Affect Lipid and Glucose Homeostasis,” The Journal of Nutrition, June 2009, Vol. 139, No. 6, pp. 1257S-1262S.
Vos, Miriam, M.D., et al., “Dietary Fructose Consumption Among US Children and Adults,” The Medscape Journal of Medicine, 2008, Vol. 10, No. 7, p. 160.
Welsh, Jean, et al., “Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults,” Journal of the American Medical Association, April 21, 2010, Vol. 303, No. 15, pp. 1490-1497.