CHICAGO—Average caloric consumption of added sugars may be dropping in America, but it’s still at too high of a level, according to a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine. The study also found an association between added sugar intake and increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease. The study defined added sugars as those added in processing or preparing of foods and not naturally occurring, as in fruits and fruit juices.
Quanhe Yang, Ph.D., of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues used national health survey data to examine added sugar as a percentage of daily calories and to estimate the association of its consumption and cardiovascular disease. They found the average percentage of daily calories from added sugars stood at 15.7% in 1988-94, increased to 16.8% in 1999-2004 and then dropped to 14.9% in 2005-2010.
In 2005-10, 71% of adults consumed 10% or more of their calories from added sugar. About 10% of adults consumed 25% or more of their calories from added sugar.
The Institute of Medicine recommends added sugar make up less than 25% of total calories. The World Health Organization recommends less than 10%. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and less than 150 calories daily for men. Sources of added sugar in Americans’ diets include sugar-sweetened beverages, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy.
“(The study) underscores the likelihood that, at levels of consumption common among Americans, added sugar is a significant risk factor for C.V.D. mortality above and beyond its role as empty calories leading to weight gain and obesity,” said Laura A. Schmidt, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, in related commentary. “Yang et al underscore the need for federal guidelines that help consumers set safe limits of their intake as well evidence-based regulatory strategies that discourage excess sugar consumption at the population level.”
In the May 31, 2012, Federal Register, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sought public comment on potentially declaring the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel of packaged goods. Several industry groups commented.
The American Bakers Association, Washington, said for the F.D.A., to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars, the agency would need to access company formulation records, which the agency did not have the authority to do. In its 2012 comments the National Milk Producers Federation, Arlington, Va., said a universal definition of “added sugars” is needed.