How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?

A mounting body of scientific evidence suggests that sugar is even more detrimental to our health than was previously thought. We all know that sugar is a big factor in weight gain and obesity, but that’s only the beginning, experts say; excess sugar consumption may contribute to a host of ills, from heart attacks to liver disease.

Though estimates vary, Americans average at least 75 pounds of added sugar annually-that’s about 22 teaspoons a day, which provide about 350 “empty” calories. Nearly half of that sugar comes from sweetened beverages; one 16-ounce bottle of soda has about 11 teaspoons of sugar.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugar. That equals about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) for someone consuming 2,000 calories a day (1 teaspoon has about 4 grams of sugar, which totals 16 calories).

The World Health Organization (WHO) similarly sets a 10 percent limit, but further advises that getting less than 5 percent of daily calories from added sugar (about 6 teaspoons and 100 calories on a 2,000-calorie daily diet) is an even better goal. The latter is more in line with the stricter recommendations from the American Heart Association: no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for most women and 9 teaspoons for most men.

New FDA regulations-set to go into effect in 2020 for large food manufacturers and in 2021 for smaller ones-will require Nutrition Facts labels to list grams of added sugar on a separate line from total sugar (which includes naturally occurring sugar), making it easier to stay within the recommended limit. Many manufacturers are already on board, however, so you can start checking for added sugar now.

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