There’s How Much Sugar in My Drink??

With the holiday treats and super sweet drinks upon us, we had to know just how much sugar we were taking in. Turns out, way more than we thought! You may want to put that coconut water down. LabDoor, a company that tests and grades various drugstore and supermarket products (via an FDA-registered lab) checked the sugar content of some of our favorite beverages, from Red Bull (those wings are made from sugar) to eggnog. The results: We suggest you stick with water. (Check the slideshow for the sugar amounts in nifty infographics.)

To find out more about the suggested daily value, different types of sugar and the latest research, we spoke with the author of the infographics, Pasha Gurevich. The takeaway? We’re eating far too much sugar! Shocking amounts. Be warned: Your diet resolution may start sooner than you think after reading this.

theFashionSpot: Why is there no daily value for sugar on nutrition labels? 

Pasha Gurevich: In 2002, the IOM (Institute of Medicine, a non-profit health org) set nutritional standards for total carbohydrate intake — which include simple sugars and starches — to a maximum of 130 grams per day. Sugars are not required nutrients, so the IOM did not set an RDA. They suggested that intake of added sugars should not exceed 25 percent of daily calories. There is no established recommendation for the amount of simple sugars that should be consumed every day, so the DV cannot be listed.

tFS: So, where did you get the 25 grams daily recommendation from? 

PG: In 2002, the World Health Organization recommended sugar intake make up less than 10 percent of total energy (calorie) intake per day. The WHO’s 2014 draft guideline suggests that a further reduction in sugar intake — to 5 percent of daily calorie intake — would provide greater health benefit. Five percent of total calories, assuming a 2000-calorie diet in an adult with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), is equivalent to 25 grams/day (or roughly 6 teaspoons).

tFS: How much sugar does the average American consume per day?

PG: According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the average American man consumes 335 calories/day from added sugars (83.75 grams/day) and the average American woman consumes 239 calories/day from added sugars (59.75 grams/day). These numbers decrease linearly with age. (Ed note: Whoa that’s a lot of sugar, people.)

tFS: What are some of the dangers of consuming too much sugar that people may not know about? (Read more about sugar here.)

PG: Overall poor nutrition: Foods with large amounts of added sugars provide calories, but little nutritional value (calorie-dense foods). The Mayo Clinic suggests that foods with high-sugar content are also likely to contain solid fats. Consuming these foods will seem filling and may discourage the consumption of nutritious foods, leading to a chronic deficit in important vitamins, minerals, fibers and other nutrients. Aside from the well-known side effects of tooth decay, weight gain and the potential of developing or worsening diabetes, recent research suggests that people who consume large amounts of sugar increase their risk of heart disease and cardiovascular mortality.

tFS: Can we adapt our taste buds to crave less sugar and if so, how?

PG: One train of thought suggests that sugar addiction has been fueled by constant exposure to sugar-dense foods and by the gradually-increasing levels of added sugars in food. This line of thinking suggests that, as with addictive drugs, gradual removal of sugary foods from the diet may reduce cravings for sugar altogether. Studies have established that sugar consumption shows properties of addiction; some have even suggested that consumption of sugar — on a neurobiological level — may be even more rewarding than addictive drugs. See here and here for recent publications.