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Added sugars account for 14.1% of total energy intakes for Americans

What are the biggest contributors of added sugars to the US diet?

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By Elaine Watson+

Last updated on 29-Jul-2014 at 20:26 GMT

Added sugar from soda, energy and sports drinks accounts for a fairly modest 4.9% of total energy in the American diet
Added sugar from soda, energy and sports drinks accounts for a fairly modest 4.9% of total energy in the American diet

While we tend to assume that fast food outlets (the bottomless soda cup) contribute a disproportionate amount of added sugar to the US diet compared with store-bought groceries, new data shows that the reverse is actually true.

As roughly 63% of calories Americans consume come from food bought from stores, you might expect that the same percentage of the added sugars Americans consume would also come from store-bought foods, say the authors of a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

However, the proportion of added sugars derived from store-bought products was somewhat higher, at about 71%, said Adam Drewnowski, PhD and Colin D Rehm PhD, MPH, from the University of Washington, Seattle, who have analyzed dietary intake data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) spanning the period 2003-2010*.

“The current analyses suggest that the proportion of added sugars from stores may exceed the proportion of dietary energy from stores.”

Added sugar has been falling steadily as a percentage of energy intakes in the US  

As for overall added sugar intakes, regardless of source, while Americans still consume a lot more added sugar than the World Health Organization recommends (the WHO says it should account for <10% or ideally <5% of energy intakes), it is well documented that added sugars intakes have been falling in the US for some years, especially among young adults, said Dr Drewnowski.

Indeed, data presented at the IFT show in June revealed that added sugar as a percentage of energy intakes in the US fell from 18.1% in 1999-2000 to 14.6% in 2007-8 (click HERE ).

Meanwhile, it is likely that FDA proposals to include added sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel will further incentivize packaged food manufacturers to reduce added sugar in much the same way that mandatory labeling of trans fats in 2006 pushed firms to reduce or replaced partially hydrogenated oils, predicted Dr Drewnowski.

Added sugars account for 17.5% of energy intakes for 12-19 year-olds and 11.

Other key findings from his paper (which you can read HERE ) include:

  • Soda and energy and sports drinks are the largest food group sources of added sugars (34.4%), followed by grain desserts (12.7%), fruit drinks (8%), candy (6.7%), and dairy desserts (5.6%).
  • However, converted to energy intakes, added sugars from soda and energy and sports drinks accounted for just 4.9% of daily energy intakes from all sources; grain deserts supplied 1.8% and fruit drinks another 1.1%.
  • Added sugars accounted for 14.1% of total energy (calorie) intakes for Americans.
  • Added sugars accounted for 16.2% of energy intakes for 6–11 year olds.
  • Added sugars accounted for 17% of energy intakes for 12-19 year olds (around 16.9 teaspoons of sugar).
  • Added sugars accounted for 14.4% of energy intakes for 20-50 year olds.
  • Added sugars accounted for 11.6% of energy intakes for those aged 51 or over (around 10.7 teaspoons of sugar).

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . First published ahead of print July 16, 2014, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.089458.

‘Consumption of added sugars among US children and adults by food purchase location and food source.’

Authors: Adam Drewnowski and Colin D Rehm 

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