It should not really be surprising that a dietary recommendation has come along to help us with a possible need to cut back on sugar. For years the USDA has been saying that the sugar in our diet was an important ingredient, but that because it did not contain any real “nutrition” it was not going to be regulated. But times have changed—and for many good reasons!
The new Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake of added sugars to no more than 10% of total daily calories. (Statement from the USDA and Health and Human Services of the government)
However, some of these changes, as in the case of sugar, have sparked some controversy. The Sugar Association, a trade group of sweetener sellers, said the recommendation is based on questionable science and predict that the guidelines will someday be reversed.
Facts about added sugar for the US population:
47% are beverages*, 31% are snacks and sweets, 8% breads, 6% “mixed dishes” as entrees, 4% dairy rich foods, such as ice cream and yogurt, 2% fruit and fruit juices, and 2% as gravies, condiments, dressings. Included in the beverages*, are soft diets, fruit drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, sport/and energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
Intake by age and gender:
Interestingly enough, at a very early age, the 10% maximum level is already surpassed. The most remarkable ages for increased sugar in the diet is from ages 4-8 years, highest from 9-13, and 14-18 years of age for both girls and boys. Then, as these same individuals age, the amount levels off, and from 19-30, and 30-50 years of age it slowly begins to come down. In the last two groups, the highest amount was eaten by women.
How long does it take sugar to enter the bloodstream?
But at this point, it is important that we are talking about all forms of added sugar. So, if you add a teaspoon full of sugar to the top of your grapefruit, that’s about 4 g and 15 calories. The fruit itself is 10 gm carbohydrate and considered a food nutrient with about 45 calories. The fruit itself breaks down very slowly over a 30 minute time period, and the added sugar breaks down in about 5 minutes. This is the reason why much of the research is done solely on added sugars and its impact on the brain and its rapid availability in the blood stream.
All sources of added sugar will vary in taste and only slightly in their sugar and calorie content. For the most part they are all the same as to their breakdown time in the system.
Effects on your body and brain:
The University of Davis has for years done considerable research regarding the effects of sugar on our bodies and specifically on the brain. It is doubtful whether any of the research points to a cause for early diabetes, but it certainly will contribute to heart disease and diabetes.
What should you do?
All of this information may seem unsettling for awhile. But in the long run, if you really can be putting eggs, shrimp, and coffee back into your diet maybe you will be able to without the worry that you are eating something “wrong.” On the other hand, maybe we should all be taking a look at how much sugar we are actually consuming with the end result of having a better handle on our diet and our weight control.
Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor
Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation