AMA Urges Curbs on Sugar Consumption
Posted August 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
Today I wanted to share the latest American Medical Association recommendation that we limit our sugar consumption. Better late than never, I say, and if this is what it takes to get people to adopt a healthier lifestyle, then Bravo, AMA.
The recommended intake for women is 100 calories, or six teaspoons, and for men, 150 calories, or nine teaspoons. This does not include sugar from fruit, vegetables, dairy, or other foods where sugar is naturally present.
The American Heart Association is taking aim at the nation’s sweet tooth, urging consumers to significantly cut back on the amount of sugar they get from such foods as soft drinks, cookies and ice cream.
In a scientific statement issued Monday, the organization says most women should limit their sugar intake to 100 calories, or about six teaspoons, a day; for men, the recommendation is 150 calories, or nine teaspoons.
The recommendations are likely to prove challenging for many consumers to meet. Just one 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar.
Data gathered during a national nutrition survey between 2001 and 2004 suggest that Americans consume on average 355 calories, or more than 22 teaspoons, of sugar a day.
As the heart association’s statement acknowledges, the science directly linking added sugar consumption to obesity is inconsistent. This in part reflects, the impact of such things as genetics, physical activity and diet have on weight.
The statement heightens the battle against foods that many public-health officials say contribute to the higher risk of such problems as diabetes and cardiovascular disease among the nation’s overweight and obese consumers. A recent unrelated study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the medical costs associated with treating obesity-related conditions may have reached $147 billion last year, up from $74 billion a decade ago.
Added sugars “offer no nutritional value other than calories to the diet,” Dr. Johnson said. “The majority of Americans could reduce their risk of heart disease by achieving healthy weight and the evidence is fairly clear that reducing the amount of sugars can help with that.”Dr. Johnson and her colleagues on the heart association’s nutrition committee based the suggestions on the concept of discretionary calories that are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines called Mypyramid. Discretionary calories are those allotted to a person beyond what are necessary to consume nutrients essential to a healthy diet while still maintaining a proper weight.
Under the Mypyramid guidelines, people on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet have 267 discretionary calories. Active young people on a 3,000-calorie-a-day-diet have 512 discretionary calories.
For a moderately active middle-aged woman on a 1,800 calorie-a-day diet, the recommendations translate to about 100 calories for added sugar. For a sedentary middle-aged man consuming 2,200 calories a day, the allotment is about 150 calories.
Dr. Johnson said the statement doesn’t tell people to eliminate sugar from their diets. She does recommend using the allotment to make healthier foods more tasty, such as adding sugar to whole-grain cereal, instead of using it on candy. People who get regular exercise, she said, can consume higher quantities of added sugar.
Mr. Haralson, a high-school teacher, said he is attentive to his three-year-old son’s sugar intake, for instance, but he said he couldn’t estimate how much the child is currently consuming.”That’s the sad part; I can’t tell you,” he said.
Current food labels don’t list sugar content in calories or teaspoons and don’t distinguish between natural and added sugars, Dr. Johnson said.
The best thing to do is to spend some time reading food labels, and actively paying attention to your diet – even a breath mint contains sugar, and calories. It adds up. While lowering the amount of sugar eaten, I encourage everyone to increase their consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and hopefully the new AMA guidelines will add impetus to those of us for whom a relationship with sugar is a difficult one to lose.
Thanks for reading,
Andre Berger, M.D.