Sugar: The latest advice

Did you know that the American Heart Association published a statement as long ago as 2009, to the effect that:

A prudent upper limit of [sugar] intake for most American women is no more than 100 calories per day and for most American men is no more than 150 calories per day.

That’s the upper limit. 100 calories of sugar is equal to 24 grams or 6 teaspoons. When you consider that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, amounting to 350 calories, 6 teaspoons doesn’t seem very much. In fact, one can of a soft drink contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Some other high-sugar foods include breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, ice cream, desserts and condiments such as ketchup and chutney. Cakes, cookies and other sweetened baked goods are high in both sugar and fat. One popular cereal is 41 per cent sugar.

In an attempt to fool you, food manufacturers may use multiple forms of sugar–each with a different name–and list each one separately on the product label. This makes sugar appear to be a smaller ingredient than it actually is. Don’t be fooled. Your body metabolizes all added sugars the same way. It doesn’t distinguish between sucrose, brown sugar, agave nectar and honey. To your body it’s all sugar, and the difference in nutrient content is negligible. Here are some examples of different types of sugar that you can find on product labels:

Agave nectar

Brown sugar

Cane crystals

Cane sugar

Corn sweetener

Corn syrup

Crystalline fructose


Evaporated cane juice


Fruit juice concentrates


High-fructose corn syrup


Invert sugar

Malt syrup


Maple syrup


Raw sugar



The over-consumption of sugar harms our health in several ways. It increases blood fats. It sends fat into storage in our abdomen, creating the harmful “apple shape” that is linked with heart disease and diabetes. It must be handled by raising insulin levels in our body, but unfortunately our organs are greatly stressed by too much insulin. While it uses up valuable nutrients in your body in order to be metabolized, it is itself devoid of any nutrients other than calories. The bottom line is, consuming more than six teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar per day leads us along the path of developing nutritional deficiencies and a wide range of related health problems.

Fortunately, food product labelling is improving. In the UK you can now find a “Total Sugars” figure on the product. The USA is also moving towards improved transparency.

You can read the American Heart Association’s full article at

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