Sugar and Sweat: The Challenge for Adults (Not Kids)

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD


June 05, 2013

In This Article

Sweet: Too Much, and Too Many Calories

The CDC released our nation's sugary intake trends from 2005 to 2010, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a cross-sectional survey of the US civilian population.[1] The US Dietary Guidelines say discretionary calories from solid fats and added sugars should make up no more than 5 to 15% of total calories.[4]

Overall, for adults in the United States, the study[1] reports that 13% of our total calories come from added sugars. The bottom line is that we consume too much added sugar. That's no big surprise. The surprising news is where the bulk of added sugar is coming from. The vast majority of added sugars are not from beverages. Two thirds of these calories come from foods, such as breads, cakes, jams, chocolates, ice cream, and pancake syrup. The natural sugars in fruits and fruit juice concentrates are not included in this tally unless additional sugar is added to food items with fruit content.

Beverages are not off the hook, however. One third of calories from added sugars in adults are in their beverages. (For children and adolescents, 40% of added sugars come from beverages.)

Also surprising is that most of the added sugar intake occurred at home, so we can't blame it on restaurants. It is a product of what we purchase at the grocery store.

The caloric damage is eye-opening. Men have a bigger sweet tooth overall than women. They take in, on average, 335 additional calories from added sugars compared with an extra 239 calories a day for women. Overall added sugars, however, made up a larger percentage of total calories in diets of women than of men.

A disturbing ethnic/racial trend was revealed: Non-Hispanic black men and women consumed the most added sugar percentage of total calories. Disturbing trends by poverty level were also seen: Those in the lowest income brackets consumed the most added sugar. These demonstrate the need for targeted educational efforts.

There are some encouraging trends. As people get older, they get wiser. Caloric intake from added sugars decreased with age for both men and women.


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