America’s on a sugar high and our love affair with added sugar is killing us.
A new infographic, Nursing Your Sweet Tooth, from onlinenursingprograms.com paints a shocking picture of sugar consumption in the U.S. On average, Americans consume about 130 pounds of added sugars every year, per person. That breaks down into 3 pounds of added sugar per person every week and approximately 3,550 pounds of added sugar consumed per person over a lifetime.
The average adult downs 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day while our children’s average consumption is even greater at 32 teaspoons daily. So what’s wrong with consuming all this sugar? Plenty. Nursing Your Sweet Tooth reports that added sugars add approximately 500 calories daily to the average American diet. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, and is the leading cause of dental decay. And keep in mind that added sugars have no nutritional value whatsoever. They are empty calories.
While Big Soda loves to deny this, the facts are clear. The bulk of our added sugars, 33 percent, according to the infographic, come from sugary soft drinks. That’s exactly why public health officials have been trying to reduce consumption of sugary drinks through education programs, sugary drink taxes and, now, through Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed 16 oz. sugary soft drink portion cap. Big Soda claims these types of measures thwart consumer freedom. I say Big Soda’s super sizing, 24/7 marketing of sugary drinks to kids and adults, ridiculous claim that lack of exercise is the real problem, and expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to fight sensible sugary drink public health policies are the real threat to consumer freedom. We are being manipulated daily by a deep-pocketed beverage industry that cares only about profits.
Getting back to sugar itself, no doubt the eagle-eyed Sugar Association will soon respond to this infographic with a press release claiming that sugar consumption is way down so it couldn’t possibly be major a cause of America’s health crisis. Well, not exactly. Traditional sugar — or sucrose — is only part of the problem. Today, some form of sugar (often high fructose corn syrup) can be found in the bulk of America’s processed foods, including ketchup, salad dressing, bread, crackers, peanut butter, yogurt, milk (the chocolate and strawberry varieties), cereal and even bottled spaghetti sauce. In other words, Americans are gobbling down vast quantities of added sugars all day long, and may not even have the slightest idea that sugar is in many of the foods they are eating.
Keeping in mind that a teaspoon of sugar is equal to approximately 4 grams, check out these sugar stats. If a diligent person is trying to keep to the American Heart Association’s recommendation of no more than 9.5 teaspoons (approximately 38 grams) of added sugars daily, a serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran in the morning (18 grams of sugar), a serving of Ragu Old World Style Traditional pasta sauce at lunch (6 grams of sugar), a serving of Ken’s Steak House Lite Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing on a dinner salad (10 grams of sugar) and a serving of Heinz Ketchup on a hamburger (4 grams of sugar) adds up to 38 grams of sugar — and that’s not even counting sugary soft drinks, snack foods and desserts.
Added sugars are taking years off of American lifespans. Big Food has little incentive to lower the sugar content of our processed foods and unfortunately, processed foods make up the bulk of the American diet. If we want to make a dent in the obesity and chronic disease epidemic, we need to enact policies, like a penny per ounce sugary drink tax or a sugary drink portion cap that can begin to lower added sugar consumption in the U.S. Big Food has been given free rein for decades to increase their profits at the expense of our children’s health. It’s time to rein them in.