New recommendations for sugar intake

August 24, 2009 4:18:30 PM PDT
The American Heart Association has come up with new guidelines on sugar intake, specifically recommending people reduce the amount of added sugars they eat every day. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to food either during processing or afterwards during meal or snack time. According to a statement released by the Association, ingesting too much added sugars can cause metabolic abnormalities and interfere with the body's ability to absorb essential nutrients.

A high intake of added sugars, as opposed to naturally occurring sugar, like those found in fruit, has been linked to the rise in obesity and an increased risk for high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, heart disease and stroke.

"Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories," said Rachel Johnson, the lead author of the Association's statement. "Consuming foods and beverages with excessive amounts of added sugars displaces more nutritious foods and beverages for many people."

The statement says that most women should consume no more than 100 calories which is about 25 grams of added sugars per day. Most men should eat no more than 150 calories or about 37.5 grams each day. That's comes down to about six teaspoons of added sugars a day for women and nine for men. However, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the average intake of added sugars for all Americans is 22.2 teaspoons per day.

And the biggest sources of high, added sugar intake is soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages according to the Heart Association.

"One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories and eight teaspoons of sugar," Johnson said.

The Association also recommends no more than half of a person's daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars.

Discretionary calories are the number of calories "left over" after a person eats his or her nutritional requirements, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish. Added sugars, alcoholic beverages saturated fat and trans fat are typically considered discretionary calories that are to be included after individual daily nutrient requirements are met.

"It is important to remember that people's discretionary calorie 'budgets' can vary, depending on their activity level and energy needs," Johnson said. "So, if you can't live with the recommended limits on your added sugars, you'll have to move more."

That means if you want to eat more discretionary calories a day, you must be more physically.

To ensure proper nutrient intake in the diet and to limit excess calories, Johnson said people should be sure foods high in added sugars are not taking the place of foods with essential nutrients or increasing their total calorie intake.

She recommended people choose a nutrient-rich dairy product, such as a flavored yogurt or a sugar-sweetened whole-grain breakfast cereal, would be a better choice than a nutrient-void candy.

For more information from the American Heart Association go to: American Heart Association