Guidelines Have Little Impact on the Love Affair with Sugar

Recent guidelines have been established to reduce what is now perceived as the greatest dietary threat to our health, sugar intake.  Guidelines from the FDA, WHO and American Heart Association all have settled on an intake of no more that 50 grams per day for adults and substantially less for children.  For a perspective on 50 grams, a 2000 calorie diet that is between 45-50% carbohydrate but without added sugars would supply approximately 35 grams.  So how bold are these guidelines which suggest reducing sugar to almost double that in a whole food diet?  Considering the recent U.S. level of sugar consumption at approximately 200 grams daily, perhaps reducing to only twice that in a whole food diet is “bold”.

Whether current guidelines are an improvement which will translate into health benefit may be determined by an issue other than the merits of the actual reduction in sugar intake, no one seems to be following any of the “authoritative guidelines”.  Two new studies looked at sugar consumption behaviors in two different ways.  The first looked at the sugar content in packaged foods in Canada between 2013 and 2017.  Of the examined foods, 77% had no reduction in sugar levels during this period.  While 12% of products did lower sugar levels by a small 1.5 grams, 11% had increased sugar content by an average of 1.5 grams.

The second study examined trends in the greatest source of dietary sugar, beverages, in Californian children over the same interval.  The result was the same, no reduction in the consumption of soda, sports beverages or juice.  We have written several blogs about the sugar addiction in westernized societies. 

Guidelines have not helped and the behavior in both the business and consumer sides of the problem have been little affected.

Guidelines aside, the staggering projection by the CDC that 1 in 3 children born in 2000 or after will become diabetic in their lifetime should be the force that changes behavior.  Westerners consume an excessive amount of sugar and that needs to change if the above outcome is to change.

Bernstein et al.  Reformulation of sugar contents in Canadian prepackaged foods and beverages between 2013 and 2017 and resultant changes in nutritional composition of products with sugar reductions.  Public Health Nutrition, 2020;23:2870-2878.

Beck et al.  Trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among California children.  Public Health Nutrition, 2020;23:2864 – 2869.

Urrutia-Rojas et al.  Prevalence of risk for type 2 diabetes in school children.  J Sch Health, 2006;76(5):189-94.