Americans over the age of 2 now consume 15.8 percent of their daily calories as added sugar. That's a 50 percent increase from 30 years ago, when added sugars contributed only 10.5 percent of our daily calories. Even worse, studies suggest that added sugars amount to as much as 25 percent of the caloric intake of children and teenagers.
"Sugar that is added to processed food and drinks while they are being made is called added sugar," explained Family Practice physician Hubert Keylor, M.D. "It is often mixed in as sugar or syrup during food preparation and includes the sugar you may add to your food at home to enhance its taste."
"Desserts, sodas, energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugar in most American diets. Foods high in added sugar contribute extra calories to your diet and are often low in nutritional value."
Sugar is added to processed foods because it:
-Gives baked goods texture and color
-Helps preserve foods such as jams and jellies
-Fuels fermentation, which enables bread to rise
-Serves as a bulking agent in baked goods and ice cream
-Balances the acidity of foods containing vinegar and tomatoes
Added sugar is also often found in foods that contain solid fats. Solid fats and added sugars are referred to as SoFAS, which represent approximately 35% of the total calories in a typical American diet.
"When a person obtains a majority of calories from foods containing SoFAS, it's a sign that he or she isn't eating healthy foods that contain dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals," he added. "Chances are that the person is also taking in too many calories, which contributes to excess weight and obesity."
"Added sugar promotes tooth decay and weight gain, especially the accumulation of fat within the abdomen, which is known as visceral fat," Dr. Keylor advised. "This visceral fat increases the danger of type 2 diabetes by producing resistance to the action of insulin. Obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions."
"When people fill up on foods or beverages that contain added sugar, they are less likely to consume healthy foods and beverages that protect their health," he added. "For example, studies have shown that the more sugary beverages that people drink, such as sodas or energy drinks, the less milk they drink. Milk provides calcium, protein and vitamins that help your body function well, but soda and juice drinks provide most of their calories from sugar and offer little to no nutritional value."
In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cutting back on calories from solid fats and added sugars. For most people, that means no more than about 5 to 15% of their total daily calories should come from SoFAS. The American Heart Association also has specific guidelines for added sugar - no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar for most women, (about 6 teaspoons) and no more than 150 calories a day for most men (about 9 teaspoons).
How to reduce added sugar in your diet
If you want to reduce the added sugar in your diet:
- Cut out sugary, non-diet sodas.
- Limit candy, gum and other sweets that are high in added sugar.
- Choose breakfast cereals carefully and skip non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
- Have fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies and other sweets.
- If you choose canned fruit, make sure it's packed in water or juice, not syrup.
- Drink more milk or water and less fruit juice or fruit drinks.
- Eat fewer sugar added, processed foods, such as sweetened grains like honey-nut waffles or some microwaveable meals.
- Use fewer condiments - sugar is added to many salad dressings and ketchup.
- Choose reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened tea and coffee drinks with flavored syrup or sweet toppings.
- Snack on vegetables, fruit, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt.
"By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising on nutrition," Dr. Keylor concluded. "Cutting back on foods with added sugar and solid fats may make it easier to get the nutrients you need and lead to a healthier life."
Hubert Keylor, M.D., is a Family Practice physician affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's Medical Staff. His office is located at 356 East Lincoln Way Avenue in Lisbon (330) 337-4905.