The World Health Organization (WHO) recently drafted guidelines to lower the recommended daily sugar intake to no more than 5% of total calories. Guidelines are currently set at a recommended 10% or less total daily calories coming from sugar. With obesity rates rising across the globe, scientists at the WHO feel strongly that current research warrants the stricter guidelines and shift to 5%. To get an idea of what that looks like in calories, based on a 2000 calorie/day diet, 5% is equivalent to about 25 grams of sugar (100 calories, 6 ¼ teaspoons).
According to the American Heart Association, the average American adult consumes about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar daily (355.2 calories, 88.8 grams) and the average child consumes 32 teaspoons (512 calories, 128 grams) of sugar daily. Based on a 2000 calorie/day diet, that is the equivalent of an average sugar consumption of 17.8% of calories for adults and 25.6% for children). All of this added sugar is increasing obesity rates globally yes, but in American in particular, obesity rates are at an all time high of 35.9% (average) and for overweight and obesity combined, that statistic jumps to 69.2% of the American population. In children and adolescents the rate is closer to 19%, which is still high.
In addition to increasing our risk for obesity, the trouble with sugar is that it increases inflammation in the body, which also increases risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, acne, headaches, fatigue, aching joints, aggressive behavior, and cavities, mental fogginess, decreased immune strength, and more. Sugar is highly addictive. Other than the sugar lobby and of course companies who manufacture and sell these types of food products, we'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that people would be healthier if they ate less sugar.
The worst culprits of added sugars come from soft drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks, and "designer" coffee drinks. To give you a few ideas:
1 Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino (Grande) = 64 grams sugar
1 Rockstar Energy Drink = 62 grams sugar
1 bottle Sobe Green Tea = 60 grams sugar
1 Tropicana Tropical Fruit Fury Twister (kids drink) = 60 grams sugar
And one of the worst liquid offenders has to be Starbucks Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha = 95 grams sugar.
The next group of offenders would be sugar and candy, then cakes, cookies and pies, fruit drinks, dairy and non dairy frozen desserts (ice cream, sorbet), milk, and crackers.
Aim to nurture your sweet tooth only through fresh fruits as much as possible. At least with the sugar you get in real fruit you will also get vitamins, minerals, and fiber – very usable nutrients, in other words, versus the empty calories you receive in most of the products mentioned above. If you are a parent, please read the labels of the foods and drinks you are offering your children and keep track of their sugar intake. It will definitely pay off in fewer doctor and dental bills. If you are a teenager or young adult who is exercising your freedom of choice when it comes to lunches and snacks (aka trips to your favorite fast food restaurant, juice bar or coffee shop), be conscientious of your choices. If you don't know how much sugar your favorite smoothie or drink contains, ask – the information is almost always readily available. And hopefully that alone is enough to help you make healthier choices.
Getting off the sugar isn't easy. As mentioned, it's highly addictive – some say as addictive as cocaine. Continue to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and whole grains, upping your fiber intake and water intake while you are cutting down on sugar. Before you know it you'll be on your way to sugar freedom. Aim for 5%. Keep track for as long as you need to so you get a realistic idea of how much sugar you are actually consuming. Your health, your body, and your mind will thank you for years to come.