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Health experts update sugar intake recommendations

We looked at how much sugar people need to limit their eating habits to, as a leading federal health committee published its recent findings.

Five years ago, Jack Thomas and his wife Joyce made a choice to change how and what they eat, and they have seen changes too.

“I’ve lost 30 pounds,” Thomas said. “And not by dieting perse, but just by changing what we eat.”

The couple is conscious of everything they eat.

“We look at the labels on the food, the boxed food that we buy,” Jack said. “And if it has a high content of sugar — say, six, twelve, eighteen grams, something like that — we will pass it up.”

It’s a habit health care leaders want more people to adopt. The federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that updates dietary regulations such as the food pyramid wants to lower the amount of added sugar in people’s diets from 10% of daily calories down to six.

“It’s supposed to be about six to nine teaspoons per day,” said Dr. Salvatore Lacagnina, the president of Concierge Lifestyle Medicine. “The average American has about 26 in their diet.”

The typical bottle of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, so once the bottle’s empty, an individual has already exceeded the daily limit. And that’s with current levels.

Meanwhile, National Confectioners Association does not support the new federal report.

“There was no new data raised in the committee hearings that would support the change to 6%, and the change would complicate nutrition labels, since the federal government requires the use of the 10% added sugars limit to calculate the percent daily value for labeling of all food and beverage products,” Christopher Gindlesperger, the senior vice president of public affairs & communications with NCA, sent in an email. “People in the U.S. enjoy chocolate and candy 2-3 times per week, averaging about 40 calories and just one teaspoon of added sugar per day, according to data in National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the CDC.”

Lacagnina says people have to lower that limit to reduce obesity rates.

“We know that diabetes has been on the rise for the last several decades, so we really should lower the amount of sugar,” Lacagnina said. “We’re actually diagnosing younger children now and adolescents with Type 2 diabetes, which up until now has been a disease of adults. And it’s directly related to obesity.”

For those who can’t say goodbye to the sweet stuff just yet, Jack Thomas says people don’t have to.

“My wife makes what’s called ‘nice cream,’” Jack said. “And it’s made with bananas and soy milk, vanilla and almond butter. And it tastes just like frozen custard. So you can go to your Dairy Queen, or I can go to my wife. It’s much better, and it tastes so good.”

The federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee says nearly 70% of added sugars come from five food categories — sweetened beverages, desserts and sweet snacks, coffee and tea, candy and sugars, as well as breakfast cereals or cereal bars.

Instead, doctors recommend people drink water, eat whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables.

MORE: Scientific report of 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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