How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?

How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?
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Are table sugar and high fructose corn syrup just empty calories or can they be actively harmful?

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In 1776—at the time of the American Revolution—Americans consumed about 4 lbs of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 lbs, and by 1994, to 120 lbs, and now we’re closer to 160. Half of that is fructose, taking up about 10% of our diet. This is not from eating apples, but rather the fact that we’re each guzzling the equivalent of 16-oz soft drink every day; that’s about 50 gallons a year.

Even researchers paid by the likes of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and The Coca- Cola Company, acknowledge that sugar is empty calories, containing no essential micronutrients, and therefore if we’re trying to reduce calorie intake, reducing sugar consumption is obviously the place to start.

Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worst than just empty. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the fructose added to foods and beverages in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup in large enough amounts can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.

Fructose hones in like a laser beam on the liver, and like alcohol, fructose can increase the fat in the liver, increasing the risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is one of the most remarkable medical developments over the past 3 decades—the emergence of fatty liver inflammation as a public health problem here and around the globe.

These may not be messages that the sugar industry or beverage makers want to hear. In response, the director-general of the industry front group World Sugar Research Organization, replied “Overconsumption of anything is harmful, including of water and air.” Yes, the overconsumption of sugar compared to breathing too much.

As one author expressed, I suppose it is natural for the vast and powerful sugar interests to seek to protect themselves, since sugar takes up the single greater percentage of our daily caloric intake.

The American Heart Association is trying to change that. Under their new sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150. That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the day. The new draft guidelines from the World Health Organization suggests we could benefit from restricting added sugars to under 5% of calories. That’s about 6 spoonfuls of added sugar. I don’t know why they don’t just recommend zero as optimal, but you can get a sense of how radical their proposal is given that this is how many we consume right now.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

In 1776—at the time of the American Revolution—Americans consumed about 4 lbs of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 lbs, and by 1994, to 120 lbs, and now we’re closer to 160. Half of that is fructose, taking up about 10% of our diet. This is not from eating apples, but rather the fact that we’re each guzzling the equivalent of 16-oz soft drink every day; that’s about 50 gallons a year.

Even researchers paid by the likes of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and The Coca- Cola Company, acknowledge that sugar is empty calories, containing no essential micronutrients, and therefore if we’re trying to reduce calorie intake, reducing sugar consumption is obviously the place to start.

Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worst than just empty. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the fructose added to foods and beverages in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup in large enough amounts can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.

Fructose hones in like a laser beam on the liver, and like alcohol, fructose can increase the fat in the liver, increasing the risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is one of the most remarkable medical developments over the past 3 decades—the emergence of fatty liver inflammation as a public health problem here and around the globe.

These may not be messages that the sugar industry or beverage makers want to hear. In response, the director-general of the industry front group World Sugar Research Organization, replied “Overconsumption of anything is harmful, including of water and air.” Yes, the overconsumption of sugar compared to breathing too much.

As one author expressed, I suppose it is natural for the vast and powerful sugar interests to seek to protect themselves, since sugar takes up the single greater percentage of our daily caloric intake.

The American Heart Association is trying to change that. Under their new sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150. That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the day. The new draft guidelines from the World Health Organization suggests we could benefit from restricting added sugars to under 5% of calories. That’s about 6 spoonfuls of added sugar. I don’t know why they don’t just recommend zero as optimal, but you can get a sense of how radical their proposal is given that this is how many we consume right now.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

This underscores why a whole foods, plant-based diet is preferable to a plant-based diet that includes processed junk.

I’ve touched on the harm of refined sugars before in:

For healthful alternatives in baking, see The Healthiest Sweetener, and for beverages, Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant.

But what about the fructose in fruit? How much fruit is too much? I also have a newer video on the epidemic of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and what we can do about it.

And check out my new 2019 video, Does Sugar Lead to Weight Gain? And in 2020, I did a new video on added sugar: The Recommended Added Daily Sugar Intake

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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