It’s increasingly hard to eat less sugar, as market shelves are filled with sugary products. In the past ten years alone, global sugar intake has risen by ten percent. In what’s not the first and surely not the last appeal of the sort, the Wold Health Organization reports adults and children  from the Americas to Western Europe and the Middle East must halve their daily sugar intake to reach acceptable levels. Otherwise the risk of obesity and tooth decay, to name a few, will skyrocket. In terms of daily energy intake, the new guidelines means that people should keep sugar at a maximum of 10% of equivalent energy.

cutting down on sugar

Image: Thinkstock / jayfish

The current average in South America was 130 grams per adult per day, in North and Central America 95 grams, in Western Europe about 101 grams and 90 grams in the Middle East, Branca said. Equatorial and southern Africa has the lowest average of 30 grams.

Robert H. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and is mostly working on childhood obesity. You might have heard of him before, since one of his talks  called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” went viral on YouTube, with over 3 million views. He argues that the rivers of Coca-Cola and Pepsi consumed by young people today have as much (if not more) to do with obesity as the mountains of burgers. In this line, “zero fat” products are being marketed feverishly nowadays to adjust for a heightened awareness on obesity, but ironically these contain lots of sugar which could arguably be worse.

“The reason we are focusing on sugar is that we really have seen the important association with weight gain and obesity is a major public health concern for many countries, an increasing concern,” the Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, Dr. Francesco Branca, told a briefing.

WHO recommends adults keep their daily sugar uptake to no more than 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults. If this sounds like a lot, consider a  can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar. Orange and apple juice has about 24-26 grams. So, it’s enough to drink a can of coke at breakfast and you’re almost at the threshold, and you still have to consider what you’re eating for breakfast in the first place, then brunch, lunch and dinner. It’s damn easy to overdue it. Here are just a few products you’d think don’t have that much added sugar:

  • Soup. A can of Progresso’s Rich & Hearty Beef Pot Roast has 4 grams of sugar.
  • Bread. Most loafs today are sweetened, and two slices typically contain two grams of sugar.
  • Yogurt. A container of Chobani’s 0% fat Greek yogurt in black cherry flavor lists 17 grams (about 4 teaspoons) of sugar.
  • Salad dressing. Wish-Bone’s Deluxe French salad dressing, for instance, lists 4 grams (about 1 teaspoon) of sugar per serving.
  • BBQ sauce. With a serving size of 2 tablespoons the sugar in these products can add up fast.
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It’s important to note that the report covers free sugars such as glucose and fructose, and sucrose or table sugar added to processed foods and drinks. Sugars found in fresh fruit, vegetables and milk were not covered.

Global sugar consumption from a daily average of about 58 grams per person in 2003 to 63 grams in 2013, is up about 10 percent, according to the WHO. Not surprisingly, the US Sugar Association slammed the report saying it used “weak and inconsistent data” to link sugar intake to chronic diseases, but peer-reviewed studies suggest otherwise. Harvard researchers found a sugar-laden diet may raise your risk of dying of heart disease even if you aren’t overweight. U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that adults who got at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed the least – less than 10 percent.

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