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Americans Unwittingly Consume Too Much Sugar, Study Says

May 2nd, 2013

too much sugarToo much sugar in the diet can cause several health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Americans are heeding the call of cutting down on sugar consumption, but a new government report suggests that many still consume way too much sugar and might not even know it.

Contrary to popular belief, most sugary foods are consumed at home rather than at restaurants, said study co-author Bethene Ervin, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts recommend that Americans limit their total discretionary calories, including added sugars and solid fats, to 5 to 15 percent of the food consumed in one day. Researchers found that the average American consumes about 13 percent added sugars each day.

According to the study, adult consumption of added sugars declined with increasing income. For instance, women in the lowest income category consumed 15.7 percent of their calories as added sugars, women in the highest income category consumed 11.6 percent of their calories as added sugar. The research also found a similar trend for men.

Surprisingly, income level did not have the same effect on children. They all consumed the same amount of added sugar regardless of income.

“Income is often considered a proxy for education,” Ervin said. “So adults with more income and education may be making healthier lifestyle choices. But that may not be translating over for their children.

”One culprit is sugary sodas. Although other research has shown that soda consumption has been declining, if you look at individual foods and beverages, these drinks still lead the pack, Ervin said.

Most Americans have no idea how much total sugar they’re actually consuming because the sweeteners are often omitted on food labels.

“I think people are interested in making changes and they’re heeding the warnings about sugary beverages,” said Sara Bleich, an associate professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “But when it comes to food it’s much more complicated. Cereal, for example, has a tremendous amount of added sugar. And not everyone understands that breakfast foods like muffins and pastry, things that people don’t consider to be a desert or an indulgence, pack a lot of sugar.”

Portion sizes on food labels are also a tricky issue. “It takes 4 to 5 servings to fill a normal sized bowl,” Bleich said. “And that’s an enormous amount of sugar.”

Sometimes the unhealthy American diet is a simple case of convenience winning over health, Bleich said. “I don’t think that moms want to be buying a KFC meal every night, but there’s also no time for them to cook a three course meal,” she added.


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