5 Freaky Stats About Added Sugar

We know America has an unhealthy love affair with sugar, but the stats tell a story that's truly insane.

November 5, 2014
Photograph by Thinkstock

You know the usual suspects when it comes to sugar: soda, candy, and, of course, your sugar bowl. But these obvious sugar sources might not be the biggest threat to your health: Sneaky sugars are. Sneaky sugars hide in foods that you wouldn't think to look in, like wheat bread, "healthy" cereals, pasta sauce, frozen dinners, ramen noodle soup, salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, deli meat, and sausage.

Sugar in your salty soup? Yep. "Sugary foods are no longer just an obvious treat," says Anne Alexander, author of The Sugar Smart Diet. "It's likely that you are eating far more sugar than you realize and getting it from places you would never suspect."

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That's why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to add a new line on the nutrition facts label for just added sugars.

And the proof is in the (very sugary) pudding. Check out these five stats that'll have you double-checking your food labels for sneaky sugars the next time you hit the grocery store.

#1: American adult consumption of added sugars has gone up more than 30 percent in the last 30 years.
We can blame the low-fat diet fad for contributing to this added-sugar spike: After removing the fat, food companies had to make food taste good again, so they added sugar. Too bad that, even though we now know fat can be good and many low-fat foods have been reformulated, we're generally not seeing sugars come back out.

More: 11 Weird Things Sugar Is Doing to Your Body

"Added sugars increase excess energy and reduce nutrient density in our diets, often contributing to weight gain and obesity," explains study author Elyse Powell, Royster Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Powell did identify a peak in added sugar consumption between 2003 to 2004 and a dip between 2009 and 2010, but it's still not enough. "Many American adults and children are consuming so much added sugar that, despite recent declines, consumption is still well above the recommended amount," she explains.

#2: The average American eats 130 pounds of added sugar per year.
"Ever-increasing amounts of sugar have invaded the American diet, and it's not because we're eating more oranges and apples," says Alexander. This 130 pounds doesn't represent the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and dairy; it's an ingredient that food companies use to cheaply make their products more palatable.

More: 12 Sneaky Sources of Sugar

#3: The average American consumes 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar every 7 hours.
This stat varies a bit depending on the source, but it's still a scary number. Alexander says that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that we're eating roughly 33 teaspoons a day, or 550 calories.

On the "low" end of the estimation, Powell found that sugar consumption peaked in 2004 at 341 calories per day and dropped slightly (to 300 calories) in 2010. What's worse is the top 20 percent of sugar eaters in the U.S. eat 722 calories per day of added sugar.

#4: We're way over our recommended sugar budget.
Even if you use the more conservative stat, we're still way over when it comes to eating added sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) says that women should have no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories, 25 grams) and men should have no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories, 27.5 grams) of added sugar per day.

More: Recommended Sugar Intake Less Than a Soda per Day

"We need an intervention. Now," says Alexander. "According to the AHA, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. That's 366 calories. And that's a conservative estimate."

#5: There are (at least) 38 names for sugar.
Wouldn't it be easy if you could just look on a nutrition label and see the word "sugar?" Sometimes you do, but companies are getting very good at sneaking sugar into food in forms that you won't recognize.

Alexander lists these 38 names for sugar that you should be on the lookout for:

• Agave nectar
• Barley malt
• Beet sugar
• Brown rice syrup
• Brown sugar
• Buttered sugar
• Cane crystals
• Cane juice
• Cane sugar
• Caramel
• Carob syrup
• Castor sugar
• Coconut sugar
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Corn syrup solids
• Date sugar
• Dextrose
• Evaporated cane juice
• Fructose
• Fruit juice concentrates
• Glucose
High-fructose corn syrup
• Honey
• Invert sugar
• Lactose
• Maltose
• Malt syrup
• Molasses
• Muscovado sugar
• Raw sugar
• Rice bran sugar
• Rice syrup
• Sorghum
• Sorghum syrup
• Sucrose
• Sugar
• Turbinado sugar

Tags: sugar
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