How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?


“How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?” In 1776, at the time of
the American Revolution, Americans consumed about 4 pounds
of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 pounds,
and by 1994 to 120 pounds. Now we’re closer to 160. Half of that is fructose,
taking up about 10% of our diet. This is not from eating apples, but rather the
fact that we’re each guzzling the equivalent of a 16-ounce soft drink every day on
average; that’s about 50 gallons a year. Even researchers paid by the likes
of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
and The Coca- Cola Company acknowledge that sugar is empty calories,
containing no essential micronutrients, and therefore if we’re trying
to reduce caloric intake, reducing sugar consumption is
obviously the place to start. Concern has been raised, though, that sugar
calories may be worse than just empty. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests
that the fructose added to foods and beverages in the form of table sugar
and high fructose corn syrup in large enough amounts can trigger processes that
lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases. Fructose hones in like
a laser beam on the liver, and like alcohol, fructose can
increase the fat in the liver, increasing the risk for
nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is one of the most remarkable medical
developments over the past 3 decades: the emergence of fatty liver inflammation as
a public health problem here and around the globe. These may not be messages that the sugar
industry or beverage makers want to hear. In response, the director-general of
a sugar industry front group replied, “Overconsumption of anything is harmful,
including of water and air.” Yes, the overconsumption of sugar
compared to breathing too much. As one author expressed, “I suppose it is natural for the vast
and powerful sugar interests to seek to protect themselves, since sugar takes up the single greatest
percentage of our daily caloric intake.” The American Heart Association
is trying to change that though. Under their new sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more
than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should
eat or drink no more than 150. That means one can of soda could take
us over the top for the whole day. Similarly, the new draft guidelines
from the World Health Organization
suggests we should benefit – we can benefit from restricting
added sugars to under 5% of calories. That’s about 6 spoonfuls
of added sugar a day. I don’t know why they don’t
just recommend zero as optimal, but you can get a sense of how radical their proposal
is given that this is how many we consume right now.