Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that sugar is evil, it has been shown to have negative effects when consumed in excess. It contributes calories, but no other nutrients our bodies can work with. When we consume too much added sugar, it can impact our waistlines, our blood sugar levels, our triglycerides, and even our immune function.
Unfortunately, the extra calories Americans have taken in over the past thirty years have mostly come from added sugars in products like sweetened beverages and snack foods. Sugar and other caloric sweeteners can also be found in places you normally wouldn’t think to look for them, like bread, crackers, non-dairy milk, and healthy-sounding non-fat and low-fat yogurts and other products that boast a low fat content.
However, surveys of over 40,000 people over the past few decades collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans have started to consume less added sugar. Researchers calculated how much extra sugar was added to food (naturally-occuring sugars such as fructose in fruit was not included) and deduced that between 1999 and 2000, there was about 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, of added sugar in a typical person’s daily diet. By 2007 to 2008, the number was 77 grams, or 2.7 ounces.
That translates to a drop from 18 to 14.6 percent of calories coming from added sugars. Though that’s still pretty high, the decrease is significant. Researchers, found that about two-thirds of that reduction related to lower consumption of sweetened beverages. It was also worth noting that low-carb diets became more popular during the 2000s, potentially adding to lowered consumption of sugars in carbohydrate-rich foods.
Though it’s great that people are taking in less added sugar than they were, most people could still stand to cut back more. Continue to forgo soda and candy bars, but keep checking labels. Rather than hit your daily sugar-quota with your breakfast cereal and soy milk, reach for the unsweetened stuff so you can enjoy one real sweet treat that will be far more satisfying.
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2011
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