New Dietary Guidelines Cap Daily Sugar at 10 Teaspoons

A 12 fl oz can of coca-cola contains 39 grams of sugar, which is just less than 10 teaspoons. (Image: Health Gauge via Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)
A 12 fl oz can of coca-cola contains 39 grams of sugar, which is just less than 10 teaspoons. (Image: Health Gauge via Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)

New federal government dietary guidelines, released January 7, recommend a maximum of just 10 teaspoons of sugar each day. Consuming this amount will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Americans, on average, consume roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, most of it in soft drinks, according to data from the American Heart Association.

To put the maximum amount of sugar we should consume into perspective, a 12 fl oz can of coca-cola contains 39 grams of sugar, which is just less than 10 teaspoons.

The authors of the book Sugar Busters! pose this question: “How many of you would scoop 10 teaspoons of sugar into a glass of tea, and then sit and drink it?”

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also suggest limiting daily intakes of saturated fat and sodium. Teenage boys and men in particular, tend to eat too much meat, poultry, and eggs, the report states.

Saturated fat is thought to be the chief culprit behind high cholesterol levels in the blood, and has also been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Nearly 107 million Americans have cholesterol levels more than 200 mg/dl, dangerously close to 225 mg/dl, which is the average cholesterol level of coronary artery disease victims,” states The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Sodium consumption is thought to increase blood pressure and thus lead to heart disease. According to the Harvard School of Public Health: “Americans average about 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day, about 75 percent of which comes from processed foods.” The federal dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams a day for adults, and even less for children.

Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement:

The dietary guidelines were established in 1980, when obesity was starting to become a noticeable problem in the United States; they are updated every five years. Not surprisingly, the guidelines suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, and also whole grains. One appendix contains healthy eating guidelines for vegetarians, and another for people following a Mediterranean-style diet.

In a news release, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, said:

The guidelines suggest that Americans consume:

  • Less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those consumed as part of milk and fruits.
  • Less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats. The Nutrition Facts label can be used to check for saturated fats. Foods that are high in saturated fat include butter, whole milk, meats that are not labeled as lean, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil.
  • Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for people over the age of 14 years, and less for those younger.
  • A variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other vegetables.
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits.
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages.
  • A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, and nuts and seeds.
  • Oils, including those from plants: canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, and sunflower. Oils also are naturally present in nuts, seeds, seafood, olives, and avocados.

Research has shown that diets that conform to the standards set out in the new dietary guidelines can help reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer by 15-22 percent, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

In the United States, 34.9 percent or 78.6 million people are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States in 2008 was $147 billion.

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