Added sugars are sweeteners that are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation. They provide empty calories with no nutritional value, and excessive consumption can have negative effects on health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) per day for men.
The main function of added sugars is to enhance the taste and palatability of foods and beverages. However, they are not essential for the body’s functioning and can contribute to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
It is important to be mindful of the amount of added sugars consumed and prioritize whole, unprocessed foods that naturally contain sugars. The main benefit of reducing added sugar intake is improved overall health and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
One main adverse effect of consuming excessive added sugars is an increased risk of obesity, as they provide excess calories without providing essential nutrients. Additionally, high sugar intake can lead to tooth decay and dental cavities.
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What are Added Sugars?
Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation, including sugars from syrups, honey, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. Added sugars include sucrose, dextrose, table sugar, syrups, honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
They can also go by different names on food labels, such as high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, or evaporated cane juice. These added sugars are commonly found in sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, and sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes, and ice cream.
According to a study published in Nutrients in January 2023 by the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of US adults were classified as high consumers of added sugars, consuming more than 15% of their daily calories from added sugars.
This is 1.5 times higher than the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendation, which states that added sugars should make up less than 10% of total daily calories.
The study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2015-2018 and found that the top sources of added sugars were sweetened beverages (42%), tea (12%), sweet bakery products (11%), and jams/syrups/sugars (7%).
Consuming too much added sugar can have negative impacts on health. Some experts argue that added sugars can contribute to an addictive-like behavior and have compared them to substances like drugs.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for men per day. On the other hand, the World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake, which is about 50 grams (12 teaspoons) per day for an average adult.
Excessive consumption of added sugars has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental caries.
However, not all sugars are bad. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and dairy products provide essential nutrients and energy. Understanding the function, risks, and benefits of added sugars can help individuals make informed choices about their diet.
What are added sugars as opposed to natural sugars?
Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods or drinks during the process of preparation or manufacturing, and they also include sugars found in honey and syrups.
In contrast, natural sugars are those that occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and milk. For example, a medium apple contains about 19 grams of natural sugars along with fiber and important vitamins. In contrast, a 12-ounce can of soda can contain around 39 grams of added sugars without any beneficial nutrients.
Are added sugars considered carbohydrates?
Yes, added sugars are considered carbohydrates. They are molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, along with fats and proteins, that provide energy to the body.
What is the difference between total sugars and added sugars on nutrition labels?
Total sugars on nutrition labels include both naturally occurring sugars and added sugars in a food or beverage. Added sugars specifically refer to sugars that are added during food processing or preparation.
The USDA dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. Excessive consumption of added sugars has been linked to health issues such as obesity and heart disease.
For example, added sugars can come in various forms like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and fruit juice concentrate. Total sugars, on the other hand, include both added sugars and naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. This distinction is important because it allows individuals to be more informed about their sugar intake and make healthier choices for their overall well-being.
What are some common names for added sugars?
Common names for added sugars include the following.
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Cane sugar
- Maple syrup
- Brown sugar
What is the function of added sugars?
Added sugars serve no essential purpose in the body and primarily contribute to the taste, texture, and palatability of foods and beverages. Added sugars are not essential nutrients and do not provide any necessary vitamins or minerals. While they can enhance the taste and enjoyment of certain foods, excessive consumption can have detrimental effects on health.
What types of foods commonly contain added sugars?
Foods that commonly contain added sugars include sweetened beverages, desserts, and sweet snacks.
- Sweetened beverages: Soda (contains an average of 39 grams of added sugars per 12 ounces), fruit juice drinks, energy drinks.
- Desserts: Cookies, cakes, ice cream.
- Sweet snacks: Candy, chocolate bars, granola bars.
How harmful are added sugars to overall health?
The health effects of added sugars on chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease remain a subject of debate. According to a review published in the International Journal of Obesity in March 2016, conducted by researchers from the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, Rippe Lifestyle Research Institute of Florida, University of Central Florida, and the School of Health Sciences at Emory and Henry College, there are limited randomized controlled trials to definitively link added sugars with these health risks.
The study concludes that added sugars like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and isoglucose, when consumed within the normal range of human consumption, do not appear to pose a unique risk for obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.
However, the review also acknowledges the existence of differing viewpoints and recommendations from various scientific and public health organizations on the upper limits of added sugar intake.
How are processed foods high in added sugars linked to health issues?
The relationship between processed foods high in added sugars and health issues is a subject of ongoing debate. On the one hand, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in November 2020 by researchers from Sorbonne Paris Nord University, Avicenne Hospital, and other French institutions investigated the link between total and added sugar intake and cancer risk.
The study was part of the French NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort and included 101,279 participants aged over 18 years with a median follow-up time of 5.9 years. The research found that total sugar intake was associated with a higher overall risk of cancer, with a Hazard Ratio (HR) of 1.17 for the highest quartile compared to the lowest. The risk for breast cancer was even more pronounced, with an HR of 1.51 for the highest quartile of sugar intake.
On the other hand, according to researchers from the University of Central Florida, reducing added sugars without also reducing other caloric sources is unlikely to achieve any meaningful health benefits. Therefore, while the studies suggest that moderation in added sugar consumption is prudent, they challenge the notion that added sugars are the sole culprits in the development of certain chronic diseases.
Are all added sugars bad for you?
Yes, added sugars can have negative health effects when consumed in excessive amounts. Excessive consumption of added sugars, regardless of their source, can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and various chronic diseases.
What are the health benefits of added sugars?
The health benefits of added sugars are limited and outweighed by the risks associated with excessive consumption. While added sugars can provide a quick source of energy and enhance the taste of certain foods, it is important to note that they can contribute to health issues such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Added sugars can provide a quick source of energy, but excessive intake can lead to weight gain and obesity.
- Consuming foods or beverages with added sugars can enhance taste and palatability, but frequent consumption can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Added sugars can be converted into glucose for energy, but excessive consumption can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Consuming moderate amounts of added sugars can be part of a balanced diet, but excessive intake is associated with poor nutrient intake and an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies.
- Added sugars can be found in a variety of processed foods and beverages, including sugary drinks, desserts, candies, and sweetened cereals.
How do added sugars impact a balanced diet?
Excessive consumption of added sugars disrupts a balanced diet and increases the risk of health issues. Added sugars provide empty calories, lacking essential nutrients, and can lead to an increase in calorie intake without providing any nutritional benefits.
Diets high in added sugars are associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Moreover, excessive added sugar consumption can displace nutrient-dense foods, leading to an imbalance in essential nutrients and hindering the body’s ability to obtain necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber from a well-rounded diet. To maintain a balanced diet, it is recommended to limit the consumption of foods and beverages that are high in added sugars.
What is the recommended amount of added sugars in a Mediterranean diet?
The recommended amount of added sugars in a Mediterranean diet is limited to a specific daily intake of no more than 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Added sugars, such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, are known to contribute to various health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In a Mediterranean diet, the emphasis is on consuming whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally low in added sugars.
Where are added sugars commonly hidden in the typical U.S. diet?
A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition in June 2021 conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto analyzed the sources of added sugars in the U.S. population in a sample of 30,678 individuals.
The study found that the majority of added sugars in the typical U.S. diet, accounting for 61-66%, came primarily from a few sources. The top two contributors were sweetened beverages and sweet bakery products, irrespective of age, ethnicity, or income level. Sweetened beverages, which include soft drinks and fruit drinks, as well as tea, were identified as the largest sources of added sugars in the American diet.
The study also revealed some variations based on age, ethnicity, and income, emphasizing the importance of considering these sociodemographic factors when crafting dietary guidelines. This research provides a comprehensive view of where added sugars are commonly hidden in the U.S. diet and underscores the need for targeted guidance for different population subgroups.
How can you effectively avoid added sugars in your diet?
To effectively avoid added sugars in your diet, follow the steps below.
- Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, which are naturally low in added sugars.
- Read food labels carefully to identify hidden sources of added sugars. Look for ingredients such as sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugar derivatives.
- Be mindful of products that claim to be ‘low fat’ or ‘diet,’ as they often compensate for flavor by adding extra sugars.
- Limit your intake of sugary beverages, including soda, juice, and sweetened teas, as they are significant sources of added sugars.
- Choose unsweetened or minimally sweetened versions of foods such as yogurt, cereal, and condiments.
- Cook meals at home using fresh ingredients, as this allows you to have control over the amount of added sugars in your meals.
- Avoid processed and packaged snacks, as they often contain high amounts of added sugars.
- Opt for water or unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks.
- Educate yourself about alternative sweeteners and use them sparingly, as some may have their own health implications.
How many grams of added sugars should you consume per day?
The recommended daily limit for added sugar consumption is no more than 36 grams, as advised by the American Heart Association. Consuming excessive amounts of added sugars can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of developing obesity, which is a major risk factor for various chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.