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American Heart Association Weighs In On Sugar Intake

By Julie Deardorff. Published in the Chicago Tribune.

Link to the original newspaper article.

How do you know when you've had too much sugar? For the first time, Americans now have a benchmark: No more than 25 grams of added sugar a day for women and 37.5 grams for men, according to new guidelines by the American Heart Association .

It's easy to soar past those limits. Downing just one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola will give you 39 grams of sugar, exceeding your daily ration. But a lesser-known problem with sugar is that it's hidden in everything from soup to nuts.

As a result, we're regularly ingesting an average of 88.8 grams of added sugar a day, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey - more than three times what the AHA recommends.

There is no recommended daily allowance for sugar because the body doesn't need it. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines vaguely advise us to "choose added sugars in moderation."

The AHA, however, felt consumers needed a specific target, said Rachel Johnson, lead author of the guidelines and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. The limits, released in September 2009, were developed after considering the number of discretionary calories a typical American has left after fulfilling all nutritional requirements. So, a more active person would have more discretionary calories, said Johnson.

Of course, sugar occurs naturally in foods - lactose in milk and fructose in fruit, for instance. These natural sugars are less alarming because they're accompanied by nutrients. But nutrition labels don't distinguish between natural and added sugars, which are those used during processing. The guidelines only address added sugars.

That means it's important to look for sugar - and its euphemisms - in the ingredient list, said Karin Hosenfeld, a registered dietician in Texas.

Watch for words ending in "-ose," such as lactose or maltose; those are simply chemical names for sugar. Brown rice syrup, molasses, raw sugar and evaporated cane juice may sound healthy, but "a calorie is a calorie," said Johnson.


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Disclaimer: As a Health Coach, I will never attempt to diagnose, treat, make claims, prevent or cure any disease or condition. I advise my clients that Health Coaching is not intended to substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed health care professional.