How much sugar is too much? The Food and Drug Administration is chiming in for the first time with recommended daily sugar intake guidelines in an effort to help curb America’s growing obesity epidemic and related illnesses including Type 2 diabetes.
Under the new recommendations, the FDA says Americans should limit their sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of their total daily calories.
“For someone older than 3, that means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of it a day,” reports the New York Times.
While 50 grams of sugar might sound like a lot, it’s not—it's only about the the same amount of sugar "found in a can of Coke," the Times explains. And while sales of sugar-sweetened sodas and soft drinks are on the decline and numerous leading food brands have begun to decrease the sugar content in their products, sugar (which can include other sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, etc) is still ubiquitous. It’s found in many yogurts, cereals, breads, sauces, salad dressings, and even canned soup.
“When you see a yogurt with pictures of blueberries and strawberries on the label — right now there could be a teeny tiny amount of real fruit in there and an awful lot of added sugar, or lots of fruit and dairy and little added sugar, and the consumer cannot distinguish between the two,” Susan Mayne, the director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA told the Times.
The agency recently proposed requiring food manufacturers to denote “added sugars” on food labels, a move aimed at curbing sugar consumption. But critics of the label say it may not be effective, namely because a number of foods don’t contain added sugars but are still high in “natural” sugar content that could also be problematic, foods such as fruit juices and jams, for example.
The FDA’s 10 percent cap recommendation came about after the agency looked at common diets including popular Mediterranean and vegetarian diets as well as the standard American diet.
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Currently, calories from sugar make up about 13.5 percent of total daily caloric intake for the average American, so the agency and health experts agree that meeting the new recommendation won’t be much of a stretch. But says the Times, “Younger people, blacks and the poor tend to consume higher amounts of sugar and would need to make deeper cuts to reach the goal.”
Cutting down on sugar calories isn’t just for weight management. Numerous studies have linked excessive sugar to metabolic issues, and a 2014 study found it may increase the risk of death from heart disease.
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